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

June 29, 2018
My Final Perspective
In This Issue:
  • Appointment to NIU Board of Trustees 
    Internet Sales Now Taxed 
  • Reducing Reliance on Property Taxes 
  • $16 million in grants will help agriculture 
  • Adoption Tax Credit Offered 
  • Discovery Partners Institute Unveiled 
  • Attention to Sexual Abuse in Schools 
  • Solving the Public Pension Crisis 
  • Fire Marshall Must Now Inspect 
  • Advice for Renewing or Obtaining a License 
Appointment to NIU Board of Trustees


As you may have heard by now, I am resigning my position as State Representative on July 1. I had planned to finish the term in the 100th General Assembly, but was recently appointed by Governor Bruce Rauner to the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees. That appointment, also effective on July 1, prompted my early resignation from the legislature. Therefore, this issue of the Pritchard Perspective will be my last.

I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to serve as a Representative for the 70th district over the past 15 years, and for the opportunity to get to know the people of this region. I gained great satisfaction helping constituents and advocating for this region of our state.

Throughout my time in Springfield, I have worked in a bipartisan manner on legislation that made significant strides to improve our state. From changing our school funding formula to passing legislation that will help attract students to our institutions of higher education here in Illinois, I am proud of the work that was accomplished on behalf of all our residents.

While I close this chapter of my service to our community and state, I look forward to continuing to serve the region and working for education in a different capacity. The future of Illinois is in our innovation, skilled workforce and making the state attractive to employers, and this truly starts with education. If we can start there, we can continue to rebuild Illinois and achieve our dreams.


Bob and Mary thank you for your friendship and look forward to continue working for Illinois

Internet Sales Now Taxed 

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned an earlier ruling (Quill vs North Dakota) and now allows states to charge sales tax on internet purchases. The Illinois legislature anticipated this ruling and passed rules with the FY 2019 budget to impose a 6.25 percent sales tax on internet companies with more than $100,000 in sales to Illinois residents.

As online shopping has grown in recent years, on-line retailers without a physical presence in Illinois had a price advantage over retailers with a “brick and mortar” store. States, counties and municipalities also were losing billions of dollars annually in potential sales tax revenue.

For Illinois, the fiscal impact of this decision will be an estimated $200 million in additional sales tax revenue for the year.

Reducing Reliance on Property Taxes
The new education funding formula has included a property tax reform options to replace local property tax dollars with state dollars. With the $350 million in additional funding for education in the FY2019 budget, $300 million goes to districts through the new, equitable formula and $50 million goes to the Property Tax Relief Fund that was created to help low-property wealth, high-tax communities.

Illinois contributes the smallest share of education funding of any state and therefore has the greatest dependence on property taxes to fund education. Reversing the inequity in Illinois' school funding system will take time, but reducing the reliance on property taxes to fund education is the right step forward. The property tax relief pool fund comes into effect this year and school districts can apply for grants that compensate them for reductions in their property tax levy and the amount of dollars they receive from real estate owners.

The goal of the Property Tax Relief Fund--along with additional state funding for education--is to start moving districts away from relying on property taxes to fund their schools.

To ensure that education is adequately funded and that districts can lower their property taxes, the state must continue to appropriate adequate funding for both the Evidence Based Funding formula and Property Tax Relief Fund.

Developing a more equitable formula that directs dollars to the least well-funded districts was a first step towards improving this system. For more details on how the property tax relief fund will work, check out the full brief here.

$16 Million in Grants Will Help Agriculture
Gov. Bruce Rauner announced last week the release of $16 million in agriculture grants. The funds being released from the FY2018 budget will fund soil & water districts, county fairs and agriculture societies, and the University of Illinois Extension services.

Soil and Water Conservation Districts, which protect our state’s farmland through strategic conservation efforts, will receive $6 million. The Department will be issuing more than $61,000 to each of the 97 districts to help fund operations.

More than $54,000 will be sent to each of the 92 county fairs across the state. This will mainly be dedicated to helping operations at the fairs and may be used to support critical facility rehabilitation needs. A study from the University of Illinois shows county fairs generate more than $90 million annually and create more than 1,000 jobs each summer.

Approximately 1.5 million Illinois residents take part in programs offered by University of Illinois Extension each year targeting all ages. Extension provides educational assistance in the areas of energy and environmental stewardship, food safety and security, economic development and workforce preparedness, family health, financial security and wellness, and youth development. The Department of Agriculture will disperse $5 million dollars to assist the organization with its core mission.

Adoption Tax Credit Offered 

Governor Rauner visited Children’s Home and Aid of Rockford, a leading child and family service agency, to promote the new adoption tax credit that was included in this year’s state budget. The credit will help make it easier for families who want to adopt children to navigate the often costly and difficult process.
The new adoption tax credit, based on the existing federal tax credit, offers up to $5,000 for a couple who is adopting a child at least one-year-old who resides in Illinois. Other adoption situations will qualify for up to a $2,000 credit.

The adoption tax credit was part of the larger budget negotiations that led to the passage of a balanced budget. The Governor hopes to expand this credit in the future to encourage even more families adopt children and youth.

Discovery Partners Institute Unveiled
I recently attended a ceremony detailing plans for the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) in Chicago to accelerate Illinois’ prowess for technology and innovation. The project was appropriated $500 million in the FY2019 State budget.

Governor Rauner speaking at the event, said the institute will be led by the University of Illinois System and be the centerpiece of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). The network, which includes Northern Illinois University, will be a system of research centers across the state tailored to meet the needs of individual regions and grow their economies.

During the news conference, U of I System President Tim Killeen announced the system is providing $6 million over the next four years to support start-up efforts. He also introduced OSF Healthcare as the first corporate partner and the first international academic partner from Israel. Northwestern University and the University of Chicago are also collaborators.


Governor Rauner speaks about his dream to create an innovation center in Illinois 

The goal is to have private sector sources match the state level of funding given to the project. DPI is expected to be an economic engine that will fuel job creation here in Illinois.

According to Killeen, DPI will initially be home to about a hundred world-class researchers and top faculty from across the U of I System. They will work with thousands of students every year, countless businesses--both large and small--and with entrepreneurs and investors to spur enterprise creation in Illinois.

Attention to Sexual Abuse in Schools
Last week I attended a joint hearing of House and Senate lawmakers investigating sexual abuse of students within Chicago Public Schools (CPS). While the Chicago media have focused on the problem in our state’s largest school system, it is a situation in many districts that must be stopped.

The hearing raised numerous important questions that must be asked at school board meetings in all our districts:

1. Do school districts train staff on mandatory reporting duties of abuse?

2. Are the best practices of children’s advocacy centers being used in responding to victims?

3. Do school districts have policies about handling reported sexual abuse and holding people accountable?

4. Do all employees receive background checks?

5. Should districts be required to share information about abusers with future employers?


Laura Farr, Doug Henning, Matt Lyons, and Jadine Chou represented CPS at the hearing but failed to explain why the school and its staff didn’t respond properly to abuse. 

There will be additional committee hearings in downstate Illinois this summer as part of the continuing investigation into sexual abuse. Several bills have been introduced in the legislature as well to respond to the situation. One of them, HB5923, will give the State Superintendent of Education the authority to initiate a suspension or revoke a license of any educator who fails to report an instance of child abuse or neglect. Those who work in our schools are ‘mandatory reporters,’ when they see or hear of cases of assault or abuse.

Solving the Public Pension Crisis
One of my regrets as I leave the legislature is that we haven’t adequately dealt with the public pension system crisis. Due in large part to past legislative actions, the five major public pension systems are underfunded by nearly $130 billion. Continuing with the current payment policies is unsustainable.

The legislature has created a pension payment ramp that grows each year until reaching 90 percent funding by the year 2045. To continue with this ramp using current revenue projections, the legislature will need to cut public services each year and will not be able to provide additional funding for education. Those annual cuts grow from a little over $2 billion in FY2019 to $11 billion in 2045 according to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA).

A rational way to solve the funding problem, avoid devastating cuts in services and escape further tax increases would be to re-amortize pension debt. I heard a presentation on such a plan this week that makes a lot of sense; I urge the legislature to consider it and other policy groups to add their comments.

The plan includes a two-step ramp that gets to 70 percent funding (nearly double the current level) by 2045 and then to 90 percent funding. The first ramp would require issuing pension bonds totaling $11.2 billion over 6 years and making nearly equal annual pension payments of under $12 billion.

As a result of this re-amortization, taxpayers would save an estimated $67 billion through 2045 according to CTBA. We would avoid service cuts and pension cost shifts to public schools, colleges and universities. And we would shift to a sustainable pension payment ramp that should be agreeable to the bond rating services. Action must be taken soon--yet in the 100th General Assembly—for a sustainable fiscal policy.

Fire Marshall Must Now Inspect
I was successful in passing HB 5551 this spring and Governor Rauner signed it into law on June 22. This bill requires the State Fire Marshal to again provide necessary fire inspection for Community-Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) so they can comply with licensing requirements.

Legislation last year omitted the responsibility for the Fire Marshall to provide the inspection and local fire departments were not able to provide the inspection. As a result, new CILAs could not be licensed or operate. It’s a great satisfaction to see the situation corrected.

Advice for Renewing or Obtaining a License
My office frequently gets complaints from residents about delays in receiving government licenses. We find that state licensing agencies are under staffed and there are too many licenses that have to be renewed at the same time.

One case in point is the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card. Nearly 50,000 cards expire and need to be renewed in June and July. Renewal applications require computerized background checks of state and federal databases before the new card can be mailed out so the process takes time.

The spike in FOID card renewals is connected to a change in the FOID law that occurred ten years ago. Effective on June 1, 2008, the maximum lifespan of an Illinois FOID card was increased from five years to 10 years. Many applicants took advantage in the summer of 2008 to get the new, longer-term cards, and it is those cards from 10 years ago that are expiring now.

Residents are advised to not wait to renew or apply for a license. Apply on-line, if possible, and at least two months before you will need the license. You will have less frustration and get your license when you need it.

I wish you a wonderful summer and look forward to seeing you in my new role. You can continue to reach me at 815-761-4058 or bobpritchard5@frontier.com 

-Bob
State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley), who has served for 15 years in the Illinois House of Representatives, officially announced today that he will be stepping down from his seat on July 1. The Representative had planned to finish his term in the 100th General Assembly, but was recently appointed by Governor Bruce Rauner to the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees. That appointment, also effective on July 1, prompted his early resignation from the legislature.

Pritchard serves portions of DeKalb, Kane, and Boone Counties as a strong advocate for education, economic growth, and fiscal responsibility. Throughout his tenure he has been known as an expert on education related matters. He was Republican Spokesperson on House education committees and was a member of the Governor’s Education Reform Commission, which produced the historic K-12 school funding reform agreement to adequately and equitably fund education throughout Illinois.

“I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to serve as a Representative for the 70th district, and for the opportunity to get to know the people of this region,” said Pritchard. “I gained great satisfaction helping constituents and advocating for this region of our state.”

The Representative encouraged civic involvement and enjoyed hosting advisory councils, writing legislative update newsletters and meeting with constituents. Pritchard hosted an art contest for middle school students, a youth summer reading program, a high school advisory council to help students understand state government and express their views, and a health fair of services for senior citizens.

“Throughout my time in Springfield, I have worked on legislation that made significant strides to improve our state. From changing our school funding formula to passing legislation that will help attract students to our institutions of higher education here in Illinois, I am proud of the work that was accomplished on behalf of all our residents. While I close this chapter of serving in the General Assembly, I look forward to continuing to serve the region and working for education in a different capacity. The future of Illinois is in our innovation, skilled workforce and infrastructure, and this truly starts with education. If we can start there, we can continue to rebuild Illinois and achieve our dreams.”

Pritchard and his wife Mary, a Professor and Associate Dean Emerita at NIU, have two sons and 4 grandchildren. They will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary this September. His private sector careers involved various facets of agribusiness. He grew up on a farm near Maple Park and continues to manage and operate the farm business with his son.
Representative Pritchard is pictured above with his son Greg.


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

June 4, 2018 

In This Issue:
  • What’s in the New State Budget 
  • IDOT’s Infrastructure Plan Announced 
  • More than a Hundred Bills Debated 
  • First Wave of Help for Higher Education 
  • New Laws Take Effect 
  • Time for Kids to Start Summer Reading 
  • College Trustees Association Gives Awards
What’s in the New State Budget

By now you have probably read several stories with highlights of the bipartisan state budget that Governor Rauner signed Monday morning. I’d like to walk you a little “deeper into the weeds” of the 1246-page document so you can appreciate the significance of the compromises that were made.

First, the General Revenue was estimated to be $600 million higher than a few months ago based on more current numbers. Income tax refunds are less than anticipated, state investment returns are higher than expected, and the sale of the Thompson Center in Chicago has finally been authorized by the legislature so sale negotiations can begin in earnest.

Second, pension reforms were included that will reduce the state’s pension obligations by $445 million. Inactive Tier 1 employees will be offered a lump sum payment to buy-out their pension. This is similar to a plan implemented in Missouri. Other Tier 1 employees will be offered a lump sum payment for converting their 3 percent compounding annual cost of living adjustment to a 1.5 percent simple interest cost of living adjustment. Finally, end-of-career salary adjustments for employees in education will be lowered from 6 percent per year to 3 percent to be more reflective of the cost of living index.

The FY2019 spending plan cuts some $1.2 billion from the FY2018 budget and reduces or eliminates nearly a dozen pieces of legislation that would have authorized more than $500 million in new spending. Education was clearly prioritized in the budget—both K-12 as well as higher education—and there is funding for capital projects as proposed by the Governor including re-appropriations for unfinished projects in the 2009 Jobs Now program.

Authorization was given to pay $1.3 billion in bills primarily from FY2017 and back pay for some union workers. These actions will not increase the amount of unpaid bills and will give the Comptroller authority to pay more of the old bills.

I will continue the discussion about the budget in future issues of the newsletter and invite your questions and comments.

IDOT’s Infrastructure Plan Announced
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has unveiled its plan to invest $11.05 billion in the state’s roads and bridges over the next six years, including $2.2 billion of state and federal funding in the upcoming fiscal year. The austere Multi-Year Proposed Highway Improvement Program will focus on projects that provide the greatest economic benefit to communities and take advantage of long-term strategies that save money over time.

Based on current funding levels, the FY2019-2024 Proposed Highway Improvement Program aims to improve a total of 1,945 miles of road and 525 bridges maintained by the state.

More Than a Hundred Bills Debated

Before breaking for the summer, the legislature debated what seemed like an endless stream of bills. Here are some of the more noteworthy bills that received approval.

SB2858: An innovative proposal from the State’s Treasurer to use idle funds to pay old bills and reduce interest paid by the state. The Treasurer could use up to $2 billion dollars in available funds that normally earn 3.5 percent interest annually to pay off old bills earning a prompt payment penalty rate of 9 or 12 percent interest.

SB3604: Limits severance pay for public and university officials to no more than 20 weeks of compensation. The bill responds to a number of cases in the last few years where government boards provided generous employment packages, lavish spending, and lucrative severance agreements.

SB337: One of many bills presented to regulate gun sales, this bill encourages better business practices among gun dealers, shares license information with the State Police, requires a security plan, and requires one unannounced visit to retail stores by State Police or other law enforcement.

HB4290: Appropriates back pay totaling $63,225,750 for some state workers according to their contract and as ordered by the courts.

SB2332: Raises the age for sale of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, and alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21 years, and eliminates the prohibition and penalties for minors possessing tobacco products.

SJRCA4: A Constitutional Amendment that provides equality of rights will not be denied by the United States or any state on account of sex. This action makes Illinois the 37th state to ratify the Amendment.

SB3052: In construction contracts, a retainage of 10 percent of the payment may be withheld from the contractor until half the work is complete. After that time, the amount of retainage may not exceed 5 percent.

SB2939: Amends the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy Law to allow IMSA to accept freshman and up to a quarter of its students from out of state locations. It can charge non-Illinois resident students room, board, tuition and fees.

SB486: Establishes a new assessment process for commercial solar energy systems located outside of Cook County for assessment years 2018-2033.

SB2562: Allows law enforcement to use drones for security and safety reasons at events of more than 10,000 people. The drone cannot be equipped with tear gas canisters, stun gun technology, or facial recognition software.

SB2892: Sets an increasing minimum pay for teachers over five years until it reaches $40,000. This is thought to help alleviate the current teacher shortage facing many rural Illinois schools.

SB3536: Provides for an alternative license for early childhood education teachers to help alleviate the teacher shortage.

HR1098: Creates a Task Force to audit every school’s compliance with teaching African American history in grades K-12.

HB5344: Requires the Department of Veterans' Affairs to establish a field office in each of the 177 Legislative Districts.

SB3049: Requires the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to reimburse certain healthcare providers for mental health services to recipients via telehealth. Requires the Department to reimburse any Medicaid certified eligible facility or provider organization that acts as the location of the patient at the time a telehealth service is rendered, including substance abuse centers.

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

May 21, 2018
In This Issue:
Ø  Governor Announces Opportunity Zones
Ø  Illinois Tourism’s Steady Growth
Ø  Government Severance Payments to be Limited 
Ø  Legislation Seeks to Make Higher Education More Affordable
Ø  More Graduates Achieve Their Goal
Ø  Basic Skills Test Adds to Teacher Shortage
Ø  Encouraging Youth Involvement in Government

Governor Announces Opportunity Zones
Our local area has been approved for 2 of the 327 Governor-selected, Illinois Opportunity Zones under the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.  All total, 1,305 qualifying low-income census tracts were available for selection in Illinois, of which only 25 percent could be nominated by the Governor for inclusion in the program to support economic growth and investment.
According to the federal legislation, Opportunity Zones present an opportunity for private, tax-free investment in low-income areas with economic need.  The Zones selected in our area include southeast Ogle County and the communities of Hillcrest, Rochelle and Creston.  The other area selected focuses on Northern Illinois University and extends west to Nelson Road and north to Rich Road.
Selection for the zones included such factors as the rates of poverty, crime and unemployment.  The Governor’s selections included 85 counties and limited the number of zones per county.  There is obviously a lot of poverty in large cities, but I hope this program will also help our rural areas and small towns increase economic activity, investment and job growth. 

Illinois Tourism’s Steady Growth
You can find people wanting to leave Illinois but there is a growing number who find value from spending time here.  Our state has a lot to offer, and tourists have noticed.  Just last year The Illinois Office of Tourism reported that nearly 114 million people visited the State on vacation.  This is a significant increase of over one million people from the number of tourists reported for the previous year. 
The domestic leisure market makes up 83 percent of the visitors, compared to the 17 percent that traveled to Illinois for business.  The increase in tourism has also given the State’s economy a boost.  Domestic and international travelers spent $39.5 billion in Illinois in 2017.  In DeKalb County alone nearly $100 million is spent by tourists.
In addition to added revenue, tourism has supported 335,500 jobs, a notable increase from years prior.  These numbers make the success of the tourism industry a vital part of the State’s economy.
New marketing initiatives have helped show what Illinois has to offer and encourage Northern Illinois residents to travel in-state instead of heading to Wisconsin or Michigan for vacation.  Illinois has great parks, lakes and rivers, museums and entertainment like offered at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb.
The website, EnjoyIllinois.com, has also been updated to help draw in interest.  Looking ahead, the Bicentennial is expected to draw more visitors through the ongoing celebrations and events.  There’s much to see and do in the Land of Lincoln.

Government Severance Payments to be Limited
A bill is moving through the House that would limit the ability of units of government to offer “golden parachutes” to employees.  SB3604 responds to a number of cases in the last few years where colleges, universities and municipalities have provided generous employment packages, lavish spending accounts, and lucrative severance agreements.  For example, in 2015, the Trustees at the College of DuPage approved a $763,000 severance package for their departing President.
The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously, states severance pay may not exceed more than 20 weeks of compensation, and prohibits severance pay when the employee in question has been fired for misconduct.
This bill makes sense to average workers who often receive little to no out-placement or transition compensation when released by an employer.  In addition, several other states have already adopted such policies, including Minnesota, California, Florida and Idaho. 
Among the opposition to the bill is the International City, County Management Association (ICMA).  The group believes that limiting severance packages would undermine the ability of Illinois communities to attract and retain talented individuals for government positions.  Appointed city managers, presidents and department heads serve at the pleasure of an elected body and are not always evaluated for their performance.  Because of this, they could be terminated at any time a board meets or after an election when a new board is seated.
The ICMA argues that hiring someone under such “political” conditions requires additional compensation to cover time while the person finds another job.  They feel it will be harder for units of government to hire the “best” person under the limitations proposed in the bill.


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

May 14th, 2018
In This Issue:
·     Working Groups Making Progress
·     Illinois Secures Federal Medicaid Waiver
·     Votes Still Lacking for Equal Rights Amendment
·     Sycamore Park District Awarded Grant
·     Belvidere Firefighters Honored
·     County Fair Money Released
·     Middle School Art Displayed at the Capitol
·     Congratulation to all the Graduates

Working Groups Making Progress

Considerable time is being invested by two bipartisan, bicameral working groups toward crafting a budget framework and making Illinois colleges and universities more attractive to students. With three weeks left in the scheduled spring session, the groups need to reach agreement soon.

I am one of 18 members seeking a framework for the FY2019 budget. This includes reaching agreement on not only available revenue but also policies regarding such things as pensions, employee healthcare, spending levels for agencies and programs, paying unpaid bills, and revenue sharing with local units of government.

The group is committed to crafting a full-year budget that can pass the legislature by the end of May. To do so will require compromise from all sides and agreement among legislative leaders. Following the meeting Thursday, I am still optimistic we can reach the goal.

The 12-member Higher Education Working Group on which I serve has been focused on increasing student enrollment in Illinois institutions, and reducing the cost of higher education compared with out-of-state institutions. Discussion and testimony helped narrow the ideas and legislation is being drafted that includes more student financial aid, reducing institution costs, making college applications easier, and coordination between colleges and universities.

Both groups meet again on Tuesday.

Illinois Secures Federal Medicaid Waiver


After waiting two years, Illinois has finally received federal permission to begin pilot programs to treat drug abuse, opioid addiction and other behavioral health issues under the Medicaid program. Governor Rauner said the 1115 Medicaid waiver will allow $2 billion in funding to be used for 10 pilot programs over the next five years that will link behavioral health with physical health treatments.

Beginning July 1st, these programs will include:

· Short-term substance use treatment at certain inpatient and residential facilities.

· Withdrawal management services, including medication and intake/discharge at a facility.

· Home visits for up to five years for women who have a new-born baby exhibiting drug withdrawal symptoms. A growing number of babies suffer from their mother’s use of opioids or other drugs during pregnancy.

· Services to help recipients find and keep a job, including job coaching and transportation.

· Intensive in-home services to stabilize behavior that may lead to a crisis, hospitalization or residential care.

This federal Medicaid waiver will give a huge boost to behavioral health services and focus on outcomes instead of the volume of services offered.

Votes Still Lacking for Equal Rights Amendment
Since the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was first proposed some 46 years ago, Illinois has included nearly all of its provisions in state law. Yet, advocates would like to see Illinois become the 37th state to ratify the amendment and flocked to the capitol last week to make their case.

Proponents argue the ERA would outlaw sex discrimination and extend all constitutional rights equally regardless of sex. They are empowered by the current national women’s rights movement and incidents of sexual harassment. Many would also like to see the federal government given more power to enforce anti-discrimination.

Opponents resist this expansion of federalism and argue approximately 800 federal laws would be affected including some that give special consideration to women. They also argue the ERA would overturn restrictions on abortions and require public funding for those seeking abortions. Some courts in states where the ERA was incorporated into the state’s constitutions have upheld this view.

The Illinois legislature failed to approve the ERA in 1982 and bills introduced in recent years have failed to be called for a vote in both chambers. The amendment appears to still lack the needed votes for passage.

Sycamore Park District Awarded Grant
The Illinois Department of Transportation announced their 2018 Transportation Enhancement Program awards last week and the Sycamore Park District was among the 53 recipients. The district will receive nearly $1.7 million to extend the Great Western Trail bike and running path.

IDOT received nearly $36 million in federal funding to enhance bicycle, pedestrian and streetscape projects across the state. The agency believes that by investing in local communities, it will contribute to the state’s transportation system as a whole. The Sycamore project specifically addresses a local need while contributing to safe travel and increasing quality of life and enjoyment of the area.

IDOT received 218 applications for projects worth an estimated $252 million for this year’s funding allotment. You can view all project recipients here. The next application period for funding projects will be during the fall of 2019.

Belvidere Firefighters Honored

The State Fire Marshall presented the Medal of Valor to three firefighters from Belvidere and five more from the city received Firefighter Excellence Awards in ceremonies at the capitol last week. The awards were made for displaying exceptional bravery or heroism in the face of danger while performing their duties as a firefighter.

I had the opportunity to visit with the men about the fire incident in 2017 that earned them the recognition. They responded to a 3-story multi-family structure fire that quickly engulfed the building in smoke and fire. Two dozen occupants were able to flee the building, some jumping from windows; but 9 were trapped and had to be rescued by ladder or carried unconscious from the building.

Lieutenant Shawn Schadle and Firefighters Aaron Pihl and Jeff Vaughan were awarded Medals of Valor. Captain Mark Zumbragel and Firefighters Mark Beck, James Kriebs, Jason Swanson and Nicolas Thornton received Excellence Awards. Congratulations to these men for their demonstrations of bravery and thanks to all who continually serve and protect us.

Fortunately fire incidents as the one in Belvidere don’t happen often. Nevertheless, the Firefighters must be trained, physically fit, equipped with the necessary tools, and ready to respond in seconds.


Shown with the Belvidere Fire Department honorees were Fire Chief Al Hyser (second from left) and Mayor Mike Chamberlain (second from the right). 

County Fair Money Released
At long last and with repeated urging from me and other legislators, the Governor finally released the appropriated funds to support county fairs. While funding was appropriated, there had been insufficient cash to pay the local fair associations.

Agriculture is the leading industry in Illinois. County fairs provide an opportunity to demonstrate the skills of animal husbandry and crop production, new technology, arts and crafts, and much more. Fairs are a social gathering and provide entertainment. According to a University of Illinois Extension Study, county fairs generate $170 million in economic activity for the state and help support over 100 jobs and thousands of volunteers.

Middle School Art Displayed at the Capitol
The entries in my annual Middle School Art Contest were on display last week in the Capitol. Thousands of visitors got to see not only the creative talent of our local youth but also the benefits of art education in our schools. My thanks go to students and teachers at Hinckley-Big Rock, Burlington Central and DeKalb for participating.

The contest winner was Adrina Middono, a 7th grader from Hinckley-Big Rock Middle School and runner up honors went to Sadie Marks, an 8th Grader from Huntley Middle School, DeKalb.

Art encourages focus, concentration, creativity, attention to detail and hand-eye coordination. Art also teaches problem solving, follow-through and social interaction.

Congratulations to all the Graduates


During May and June, families across Illinois celebrate student education achievements at ceremonies and parties. It’s been a number of years since I received a college degree but I took the stage earlier this month to accept an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Aurora University President Rebecca Sherrick for my legislative work in education.

It’s important to remember that education is life-long and gaining knowledge and skills are the tools for progress and public service. Congratulations and best wishes to all those reaching an education milestone.

Have a great week and call my District Office to share your opinions or if I can be of assistance. 

-Bob

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

April 30, 2018
In This Issue:

·     Bond Sales Fund Capital Projects
·     Rush to Pass Legislation before Deadline
·     Use ComEd’s Energy Efficiency Program
·     Work Moves Slows Toward a Budget
·     Extending Property Tax Exemptions
·     Progressive Income Tax Proposed
·     Federal Grant to Help Fight Opioid Abuse
·     Increasing Support for Apprenticeship Opportunities

Bond Sales Fund Capital Projects
Last week the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget announced the sale of $500 million of General Obligation Bonds to fund some much needed projects.  The sale “rolled over” existing commitments to maintain capital infrastructure and conduct other essential long-term elements. 

The first $450 million will finance capital projects including roads, mass transit and deferred maintenance within state agencies.  The final $50 million will be used to finance information technology programs.

While Illinois’ debt is given a relatively low rating by international credit-measurement agencies, the obligations continue to be ranked as investment-grade securities.  For example, leading bond analytical firm Moody’s Investors Services ranks Illinois general obligation debt at Baa3 with a negative outlook. 

The bonds in Wednesday’s sale will mature over a variety of years.  The longest maturing bonds will expire in 2043 at an interest rate of 4.88 percent.  Interest rates on the bond package as a whole averaged 4.55 percent.

Rush to Pass Legislation before Deadline
Last week was the official deadline for passing legislation out of each chamber.  On Friday alone, the House acted on over 60 bills in 6 hours.  Here are some of the bills passed in the House.

HB4594:  Reforms the criminal court fee system comply with Supreme Court orders.  Further, it makes all fees consolidated to unified schedules and it allows for waivers for low income individuals who are unable to pay such fines.

HB4781: Ensures each university is making their best effort to hire a veteran as the Coordinator of Veterans and Military Personnel Student Services on each campus in Illinois.

HB5632:  Directs that an ambulance or rescue vehicle shall operate a siren and lamps only when it is reasonably necessary to warn pedestrians and other drivers of the approach.

HB5749:  IDOT and local authorities may issue special permits for trucks to carry heavier loads of agricultural commodities and limits the total fees for those permits to no more than $1,000.

HB4513: Requires that on public construction projects, to the extent practicable, at least 10 percent of the man-hours performing construction services be performed by individuals who reside in areas of poverty.

HB5309: Forbids state agencies from paying a bonus to their employees using tax revenue.

HB3479: Requires managed care community networks that contract with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to establish, maintain, and provide a fair and reasonable reimbursement rate to pharmacy providers for pharmaceutical services and related products.

HB4858: Allows local school districts and community colleges to apply for and receive grants for purchases of land, construction of facilities, and equipment in order to improve teaching for jobs related to manufacturing. 

HB4799: Provides that, in every public school for grades K-8th, there shall be instruction, study, and discussion of safe bicycling and walking practices prevention traffic injuries.

HB4643:  Allows Physical Therapists to diagnose and treat patients for a limited time without the patient first receiving a "documented current and relevant diagnosis" from a physician, dentist, advanced practice registered nurse, physician assistant, or podiatric physician.

HB5551: Reinstates in law that the Office of the State Fire Marshall shall inspect Community-Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) so they may comply with licensing requirements.

HB4208: Establishes the Safe Schools and Healthy Learning Environments Program to offer additional ways to deal with student discipline beside school resource officers and making student arrests.

HB5136: Clarifies that meetings of school management and unions to discuss teacher evaluation plans and student growth are not covered under the Open Meetings Act.

HB4369: Directs the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to develop an online handbook to provide guidance on dyslexia and its challenges in an educational setting.

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

April 23, 2018

In This Issue:
·     Legislative Initiatives to Combat Teacher Shortage
·     Independent Redistricting Reform
·     Bills Pass the House Last Week
·     Improving School Safety
·     Unemployment at Lowest Rate in More Than 10 Years
·     Youth Council Visits the Capitol

Legislative Initiatives to Combat Teacher Shortage
Our children’s education remains a top priority, which is why the growing teacher shortage in Illinois has been especially troubling.  To combat the shortage, several pieces of legislation have been filed by lawmakers and the topic continues to be debated in Springfield. 

The Illinois State Board of Education said the 2017-18 school year began with about 2,000 unfilled teaching positions across the state.  In addition, Regional Offices of Education report increasingly difficulty finding substitute teachers.  The teacher shortage is much more pronounced in rural districts while substitute teacher shortage concerns were most evident in the southern part of the state.  The most difficult positions to fill include bilingual, Spanish, special education as well as nurses and school psychologists.

The shortage can be tied to a combination of factors including: educators retiring, leaving Illinois, or the profession; compensation and benefits; the challenges of teaching today’s students; fewer students interested in teaching or able to pass the qualifying tests; and hurdles for out-of-state educators to be licensed in Illinois.

Legislative measures have been filed to address some of these challenges.  HB4167: Establishes a short-term substitute teaching license.  Applicants must hold an associate’s degree or have completed at least 60 credit hours from an accredited university.  Current law requires a bachelor’s degree for all substitute teachers.

HB4280 and SB2844: Establishes the growing future language-educator program.  It would allow high schools to hire high school graduates who are proficient in a language other than English and are pursuing an educator license, to mentor and teach English language learners.

HB4409: Addresses the shortage of school psychologists by removing the requirements that those who already hold a valid Nationally Certified School Psychologist credential must also take state-mandated tests.

HB4956: Requires every Illinois public university with an educator preparation program to offer a three-year degree completion program.  The sponsor seeks to reduce the cost of education and time learning material outside of the area of specialty.

HB5153: Streamlines the hiring process for educators at the Illinois School for the Deaf and Illinois School for the Visually Impaired.

HB5005: Assures salaries of teachers employed by the Department of Juvenile Justice are comparable with teachers in area school districts.  It also recognizes state teaching licenses without further testing. 

HB5627: Recognizes and removes hurdles for out-of-state licensed educators to teach in Illinois.

Independent Redistricting Reform
A House Resolution was filed last week calling for independent redistricting reform.  Legislative maps are redrawn every ten years following the U.S. census so that lawmaker’s districts will contain an equal number of constituents.  Drawing a fair map is important to help protect voter rights and create a more representative government.  The current process of redistricting has been skewed by partisan politics that only creates more polarization.

House Resolution 995 would produce a fair map.  It calls for maps to be drawn without regard to incumbency and partisanship, and allows voters the opportunity to choose a candidate based on the issues and policies most important to them. 

According to a poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, 72 percent of Illinois residents, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, support the creation of an independent commission to draw legislative district maps.  I have also placed a poll on my Facebook page to measure opinions regarding independent redistricting.

Bills Pass the House last Week
The House deadline for passing bills out of the chamber has been set for this Friday.  Consequently there was a flurry of legislative activity last week.  Here is a sampling of some of the bills that passed the House.

HB4104: An initiative of the Illinois Municipal League to overturn a ruling from the Comptroller that all municipal audits had to be made using the accrual method of accounting.  The bill will continue the practice of allowing both a cash and modified accrual basis of accounting.

HB4637: Provides a referendum process for voters to dissolve townships in McHenry County through petition or resolution of a township board.  The bill also requires townships in Lake and McHenry to dissolve any township road districts that maintain less than 15 miles of road.

HB5771:  Requires schools to document and report students with chronic absenteeism.  Some schools make little effort to see that students attend school.  Absenteeism has been correlated with dropping out of school.

HB4081: Provides a penalty of up to $10,000 for any call center business that leaves the state without providing at least a 120 day notice to the State Treasurer.  Many legislators have concerns that the language of the bill would include most businesses and points out the unfriendly business climate in Illinois.

HB4413:  Requires that any pension board meeting subject to the Open Meetings Act must be broadcast to the public in real-time over the internet. 

HB4846:  Seeks to improve public safety by imposing a fine for texting and using a hand-held cell phone while driving.   Violation of this offense will result in a fine of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense, and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.

HB4645:  Extends the repeal of the Health Facilities Planning Act and Certificate of Need program until 2029.  The act was intended to avoid duplication of healthcare services and ensure public accountability surrounding health care facility operations.

HB5513:  Requires the Department of the Lottery to offer a special instant scratch-off game to benefit State police memorials.

HB4870:  This bill requires every school to allow a parent or guardian to administer medical cannabis infused products to their student on school premises, unless it would cause a disruption to the learning environment.  Current state law prohibits the use of medical cannabis on school grounds even when the student has a prescription for the medication. 

HB5109: Creates a forgivable loan to students studying Community Behavioral Health Care when they practice in underserved areas following graduation.  The sponsor believes this will help address the need for mental health and substance abuse professionals.

HB4745:  Allows the Department of Public Health to avoid procurement delays in purchasing the equipment and technology necessary for Newborn Metabolic Screening.

HB5021:  Provides the Board of Higher Education with authority to confiscate student records from an institution that proposes to discontinue operations.  Such records are the only proof of classes taken, grades and other information about the student’s educational experience.

HB5267:  Requires law enforcement to provide a full report of the investigation of the crime to the Attorney General’s Office within 15 days of a request for the report. The following information can be redacted from reports: names of confidential sources and informants, locations from which law enforcement conduct surveillance, and information related to issues of national security the law enforcement agency provided to or received from the United States or other federal law enforcement agencies.

HB4944:  Reduces in half the number of safety tests needed each year for vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds (flatbed trucks and step-vans).  The owner will save time and money.