Pritchard's Perspective for March 5th

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

March 5th, 2018
In This Issue:

·       Commission Provides Budget Outlook
·       Legislation Passed the House
·       Addressing the Teacher Shortage
·       Recognizing the Profession of Teaching
·       Celebrate Art Week and Competition
·        New Worker’s Compensation Manual Available

Commission Provides Budget Outlook
The Legislature’s financial watchdog—the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA)—essentially agrees with the Governor’s staff that the state will have less money to spend next year.  At a hearing in Springfield last week COGFA economists said anticipated revenues in FY2019 will be nearly $3 billion less than anticipated in FY2018.

Usually the revenue forecast opens discussions on a budget but in recent years the legislature has not limited spending to available revenue.  Several weeks ago House Republican Leader Jim Durkin sent a letter to Speaker Madigan urging an agreed revenue estimate as the first priority.  Durkin said this serves as a taxpayer protection, so we don’t spend more money than we have available, and cause a need for more tax hikes.   

The smaller revenue number came despite expected growth in income taxes of $545 million over FY2018 estimates and $179 million growth in sales tax receipts.  The economists foresee wage growth and inflationary pressures increasing retail sales in their predictions. 

The major factor in the lower FY2019 revenue number was a falloff of $1 billion in federal revenue, primarily due to less Medicaid reimbursements.  There was also a smaller estimate for fund sweeps that artificially raise the revenue forecast.

The forecast also assumes that the state will continue to retain 10 percent of the Local Government Distributive Fund that should be distributed to local governments from net income taxes.  The retention of these LGDF monies was put into statute for FY 2018. To continue this practice would require legislative action or accept FY 2019 state General Fund Revenue to be reduced by approximately $130 million.

Taxpayers will benefit in 2019 from lower public utility taxes that are expected to decline $25 million based on anticipated normalized weather patterns, as well as the long term trend of falling telecommunications taxes. You can find the full briefing and revenue estimate here.

Legislation Passed the House
There was extensive debate last week on several pieces of gun legislation; here are some of the bills that passed out of the House.

HB1465: raises the age from 18 to 21, as the minimum age to purchase assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices.  The bill prohibits the sale, delivery, or possession of assault weapons, assault weapon attachments, and .50 caliber rifles and .50 caliber cartridges to a person under the age of 21. 

HB1467: bans bump stock and trigger crank modification devices for semi-automatics in Illinois.  These modifications are meant to increase the rate of fire achievable with the weapon.  This bill prohibits the sale, manufacture, purchase or possess of a bump stock and trigger crank.

HB1468:  imposes a 72-hour “cooling off” period between purchase and delivery of assault weapons.  This includes certain rifles, semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and semiautomatic pistols, and .50 caliber rifles.

HB 4163 Prohibits an employer from seeking the salary, benefits or salary history of a job applicant from the applicant or any current or former employer.

SB 193 Creates the Worker Protection Unit within the Office of the Illinois Attorney General to intervene in, initiate, enforce, and defend all criminal or civil legal proceedings on matters and violations relating to specified statutes.

SB1567:  Creates a gun dealer licensure system in Illinois even though there is a required federal licensure.  The bill requires every gun dealer to have a state license for the owner, a state license for the dealer and possibly a local license in addition to the federal license that is required.  The bill also mandates a video surveillance system and allows for the general public to pay a fee and get a list of names and addresses of all licensees.

SB 1573 and SB 1773 are a two-bill package that allows the continued assessment of hospitals for seed money to request matching funds from the federal government.  The new program reflects changes in health care and the health care professions. 

This legislation is slated to bring $3.5 billion in federal money into our State and its health care infrastructure.  Representatives of Illinois hospitals agreed to the specifications of the new assessment system.  The program provides enhanced funding for challenged Illinois hospitals, including rural and inner-city safety-net hospitals.  Of the money generated by these measures, 58 percent is expected to go to safety-net hospitals. 

Addressing the Teacher Shortage
It seems that it wasn’t that long ago that newly licensed teachers couldn’t find a job.  A survey of school Superintendents last fall, however, identified a wide-spread shortage of both teachers and substitute teachers.  While there seems to be a shortage of substitute teachers everywhere in the state, the teacher shortage is most acute in rural districts and Central Illinois.

The Superintendents reported the most difficult positions to fill are in teaching English to non-native speakers, Spanish, special education, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  Positions as school nurses and psychologists are also difficult to fill. 

Several groups have been meeting to identify the problem and offer solutions.  The House Education Licensing Committee, on which I serve, heard testimony from a few of these groups last week.  Those testifying pointed to problems in recruiting prospects to enter the field, failure to complete teacher training, and retention of licensed teachers. 

I have visited my school classes and witnessed the challenges of teaching.

Many likely candidates for teaching are apparently discouraged from pursuing that career due to lower pay compared to other professions, loss of prestige, uncertainty of state funding and benefits, and dissatisfied current teachers. 

Cost of a college education certainly discourages some from entering the field.  I have introduced a bill (HB4280) to help English Language Learners use their skills right after high school and work part-time as a paraprofessional while they are also working toward a teaching license. 

Other solutions are being discussed and will likely be written into legislation before the end of session this year.

Recognizing the Profession of Teaching
The State Board of Education is also trying to elevate and promote the teaching profession by focusing on those who have significantly contributed to education.  Applications are being accepted by June 4 in seven categories.

Anyone can nominate a candidate for the best: classroom teacher, school administrator/principal, student support personnel, education services personnel, school board member/volunteer, early career educator and team.

The application for the contest can be found here.  This annual program is a great opportunity to recognize the educators, administrators and staff working in school districts across Illinois that go above and beyond to deliver the best education to our students.  I urge you to consider submitting an application for someone you may know!  The DeKalb and Kane County Regional Offices of Education also conduct annual programs to recognize excellence in education and those honored can be entered in the state competition. 

Celebrate Art Week and Competition
Next week has been designated Illinois Arts Education Week by the Illinois State Board of Education to draw attention to the importance of the arts in education.  This year’s theme “The Arts Make History Come Alive,” honors the state’s bicentennial and reflects the importance of art throughout the history of Illinois. 

To recognize our young artists I am sponsoring a middle school art contest where the finalists will have their work displayed at the state Capitol.  You can find the information on my art contest, and the submission form here.

Art teaches students good judgment, perspectives, the importance of detail and that there is more than one solution to a problem.  Students also learn to be creative, work with others and the ability to follow-through.  These life skills are important and sometimes missing in the legislature too.

New Worker’s Compensation Manual Available
This year’s edition of the Worker’s Compensation Manual has been revised and is now available.  Since the Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation System can be quite difficult to understand, the manual gives an overview of the system, and includes a discussion on various topics related to worker’s compensation issues. 

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is holding two seminars to review the new manual on March 15th in Naperville and April 10th in Effingham.  For more information on the seminars or the manual, you can contact the Chamber at 217-522-5512 or by e-mail to 

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

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