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Governor Signs Key Wheeler Bills into Law
During the summer months, the Governor takes action on the hundreds of bills that were approved during the previous spring legislative session. I was successful this year in passing some very good legislation that will have a positive impact on the people of the 64th Legislative District. A few of those bills that were recently signed into law include:
  • HB 5584 (now Public Act 99-0783): This is a consolidation bill that has the potential to save local taxpayers thousands of dollars in property taxes by allowing two Lake County Sanitary Districts to have their duties and obligations absorbed into Lake County operations. Lake County already performs these duties in many areas and has the infrastructure in place to take over the sanitary district duties of these two municipalities at a lower cost to taxpayers.
  • HB 5017 (now Public Act 99-0835): This important legislation allows juveniles under the age of 18 to expunge their records for non-violent offenses in certain circumstances. Criminal records can follow an individual for years past the date of a crime and well past the period of rehabilitation. For juveniles, who often make poor choices before their impulse control mechanisms are fully developed, the long-range consequences can affect their ability to become productive adults. By allowing juveniles to have records of non-violent offenses erased after they have made restitution for their crime, we are truly allowing them to start with a clean slate and make the most of their adult lives.
  • HB 4330 (now Public Act 99-0600): This new law addresses the out-of-control costs of higher education by offering high school students an opportunity to earn college credit if they show high proficiency in a foreign language. Those illustrating the proficiency will be awarded a State Seal of Biliteracy. Students who earn a score of “intermediate high” or better on a State Seal of Biliteracy test will be deemed as having met the foreign language admission requirements at any public community college or university in Illinois and will receive credit for the equivalent college-level courses. According to data from CollegCalc.org, which compares and calculates college costs across the country, using the State Seal of Biliteracy to earn credit for one foreign language class at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign would have saved a student $5,553 during the 2014-2015 academic year. 
Tourists Spent $37 Billion in Illinois in 2015
The new numbers come from the Illinois Office of Tourism, which monitors visitor spending in Illinois as a way of gauging a return on investments for the money from hotel/motel taxes spent to promote Illinois to out-of-staters. Estimated expenditures by tourists in Illinois were $37 billion in 2015, up an inflation-beating 2.6% from 2014.

According to the Office of Tourism, an arm of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, tourism generated an estimated 10,000 new Illinois jobs in 2015. Job creation is featured in the Office of Tourism’s “Illinois Made” campaign for 2016, a multimedia promotion that centers on the attractive opportunities for visitors to buy goods and services produced by Illinois craftspeople and small businesses.

Governor Signs Bills Honoring Gold Star Families, Increasing Services to Illinois Veterans
Governor Bruce Rauner recently took action on several bills as part of Veterans Day at the 2016 Illinois State Fair. The bills strengthen Illinois’ commitment to our veterans and their families by providing needed assistance and honor to those who have sacrificed so much for our country and our state.

Two of the bills support the families of our Illinois veterans. HB 4389, sponsored by Rep. Steven Andersson, designates the day after Gold Star Mother’s Day as Gold Star Family Day to be observed throughout Illinois as a day to honor and commemorate the families of men and women who gave their lives while serving with the armed forces of the United States.

HB 4432, sponsored by Rep. Don Moffitt, allows a child in any grades 6 through 12 to be absent from a public school for the purpose of sounding “Taps” at a military honor funeral held in Illinois for a deceased veteran. Read more about HB 4389 and HB 4432.

HB 4627, sponsored by Rep. Mike Tryon, allows veterans to begin their college education upon discharge regardless of how the calendar year lines up. Read more about HB 4627.

HB 4344, sponsored by Rep. Mark Batinick, creates the Heroes Way Designation Program Act. It is a way to honor servicemembers who were killed in action by allowing a relative to apply to have an honorary sign with the name of the servicemember erected along designated Illinois roads.

Summer Readers from District 64 Enjoy Ice Cream Social
As a former school teacher, I recognize the importance of reading in people’s everyday lives. Each summer, in an effort to keep children reading, I sponsor a Summer Reading Club for elementary aged children in District 64. Readers who reach a goal of finishing at least eight books over the summer were invited to an ice cream social that was held last week in McHenry at the Baskin Robins/Dunkin Donuts store. Store manager Naimesh Upadhyaya was our gracious host at the event. Senator Pamela Althoff of McHenry was also able to attend the event and talk with the readers about their new favorite books. As kids settle into their new school year, I hope their love of reading continues to grow!

Current Rate of Traffic Deaths show Fatalities Mounting to Projected Eight-Year High in 2016
Based on current statistical trends, more than 1,000 people will be killed on Illinois roads and highways in 2016. The dismal number is attributed by traffic experts to higher speeds, with speed limits up to 70 mph on many sections of Illinois limited-access highways. An increase in the total number of Illinois miles driven and a larger number of younger drivers are also blamed.

The 1,000-death projection is based upon the 629 Illinois traffic deaths that had been logged as of Friday, August 12 by the National Safety Council, a private-sector entity that works with local law enforcement and health providers to track accidents and injuries nationwide, including motor vehicle incidents. The Council has, in the past, played a key role in injury-reducing changes to motor vehicle law, including mandatory child restraints and a standardized law to identify and sanction persons who drive under the influence.

New Private Foundation will Cooperate with State of Illinois to Preserve Threatened Fairgrounds
A private foundation has been created to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure that supports Illinois’ largest summer gathering, the Illinois State Fair. With an estimated $180 million in deferred maintenance costs, the more than 190 buildings of the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair in Southern Illinois’ DuQuoin will require massive rebuilding to maintain a safe and secure fairgoing experience. Electrical, paint, plumbing, roofing, and structural repairs must be done on buildings that were built as long ago as 1892.

Governor Bruce Rauner led the push to create the new Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation. Established by private-sector leaders of the agricultural community, the foundation will raise private funding and coordinate the revitalization and improvement of both fairgrounds. It is expected that large donors may receive recognition for their generosity in the form of sponsorship opportunities that will be seen by the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the Fairs and their grounds. Creation of the Foundation was the culmination of a push to save the State Fairgrounds led by Rep. Tim Butler and by former Rep. Raymond Poe, both of Springfield. Former Rep. Poe is currently the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the State agency with overall responsibility over the State fairgrounds and state fair infrastructure.
Legislation sponsored by State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) that allows juveniles to have court records for non-violent offences expunged was signed into law Friday by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Through HB 5017, juveniles may petition the court at any time for expungement of law enforcement records and juvenile court records for non-violent offenses at any point after the termination of all court proceedings relating to the incident. “Criminal records can follow an individual for years past the date of a crime and well past the period of rehabilitation,” said Wheeler. “The same is true for juvenile offenders, who often make a poor choice before their impulse control mechanisms are fully developed. This new law allows juveniles to truly start with a clean slate after making reparations for their non-violent crimes.”

According to Wheeler, the need for the bill was brought to her attention by a 15-year-old from District 64 who was concerned that a few bad decisions that landed him in police custody would damage his chances of getting into college and having a good future. The previous law only allowed for expungement in rare cases, or after the individual turns 21 years old.

“All kids make mistakes; they all make occasional bad choices,” said Wheeler. “If society is going to hold those bad choices over juveniles’ heads as they attempt to build a successful future for themselves, we are doing nothing to improve society or to address Illinois’ need for juvenile justice reform. Every child should be given every opportunity to have a fresh start upon entering adulthood as long as their crime was not of a violent nature, and by wiping their slate clean, troubled teens can become successful and contributing adults.”

HB 5017 was a bipartisan initiative, with Wheeler carrying the bill in the House and Democrat Kwame Raul of Chicago carrying it in the Senate. Click here to hear Wheeler speak about the provisions of the bill.
Citizens of Round Lake and Fox Lake will see property tax relief through sanitary district legislation sponsored by State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) and State Senator Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) that was signed into law on Friday by Governor Bruce Rauner.

HB 5584, signed as Public Act 99-0783, will allow the Round Lake and Fox Lake Sanitary Districts to have their duties and obligations taken over by Lake County. “Reducing and eliminating units of redundant or unnecessary layers of government is a priority for me as it leads to significant savings for taxpayers,” said Wheeler. “There are many instances where a larger unit of government can absorb functions of smaller taxing districts, and I will continue to look for ways to reduce the local tax burden through these types of consolidations or dissolutions.”

The measure received unanimous support in the House and Senate. “Illinois has more governing bodies than any other state, creating inefficiencies and duplicative services,” said Althoff. “This new law aims to consolidate those services to provide relief to our taxpayers. May of the services these sanitary districts provide can be easily assumed and done so at a lower cost.”

The new law takes effect immediately.
As the Summer Olympic Games get underway today in Rio de Janeiro, locally we send our best wishes so Grant Community High School graduate Daniel Dennis, who will represent his hometown of Fox Lake, the State of Illinois, and the United States of America as a member of the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team. Daniel will be competing in the 57 kg (125.5 pounds) weight division.

During his high school wrestling career at Grant, where he earned the nickname “the Mad Man,” Daniel recorded 153 wins and was a two-time IHSA state finalist. Dennis went on to the University of Iowa, where he became a two-time All-American and was the winner of the 2008 Midlands Championships. He spent a few years away from competition, but was encouraged to return and won an astonishing underdog victory by 10-0 fall to make the Olympic team on April 10.

This spring I honored Daniel for his accomplishments by filing a resolution in Springfield in his honor. For full text of House Resolution 1180 that honors Dennis, click here.   

Olympic wrestling coverage takes place on Friday, August 19th, with Dennis’ first match occurring at about 10:00 AM Central Time. Medals will be awarded that night.

The networks of NBC will be providing coverage of this year’s Olympic Games, and I will be providing updates on my Facebook page about Daniel’s matches and the total medal count.  To view a complete schedule of Olympic events, click here


I plan to host a watch party on the 19th during the day and evening at Marzano’s, located at 1501 South Route 31 in McHenry. I hope you’ll join me to help cheer on our hometown hero, Daniel Dennis!
Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that his office has reinstated the mailing of vehicle registration reminder notices to Illinois drivers. To offset the cost of the mailings, White is drafting legislation allowing his office to offer advertising space on the mailings. In addition, White is urging the public to sign-up for email notices to further reduce mailing costs.

The Secretary of State’s office discontinued mailing reminders in October 2015 due to the lack of funding as a direct result of the state budget impasse. The stop-gap budget recently passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor allows White’s office to reinstate the notices.

“The notices are an essential tool for the public to be sure their vehicles are in good standing and avoid paying late fees and fines resulting from tickets issued by law enforcement,” White said. “The driving public paid the price for the budget impasse and it proved to be an unfair burden. With the funds from the stop-gap budget the notices will resume. In addition, we are reducing the number of mailings and seeking alternative funding sources for the postage costs.”

“Although we are now able to reinstate mailing the vehicle registration reminder notices, I continue to strongly urge motorists to sign up for email reminders,” said White. “Saving taxpayer dollars is always a priority of our administration.”

White noted that more than 2.3 million people have registered for the email notification, 800,000 of which signed up since October 2015.

Vehicle owners can sign up for email notifications by visiting the Secretary of State website, www.cyberdriveillinois.com. To register for the program, vehicle owners will need their assigned registration ID and PIN, which can be found on their current vehicle registration card. If that information is not available, they can call the Secretary of State public inquiry division at 800-252-8980 to obtain the Registration ID and PIN.

The one-time registration process will allow vehicle owners to receive a series of three email notices per vehicle each year highlighting the upcoming vehicle expiration date.
It is my pleasure to present to you my 2016 End of Session Report. My staff and I prepared this report for you, to give you an in-depth look at this past legislative term and to ask for your feedback in the enclosed survey.

These are truly challenging times, but as you will see in the enclosed pages, we had some key successes this year. You may access the report by clicking on the image to the left.
Legislation sponsored by State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) that offers college-bound high school students an opportunity to earn college credit while saving on college tuition costs was signed into law on Friday by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Students applying to some Illinois public universities are required to complete two years of foreign language studies to be considered for admission. HB 4330 would allow students to meet that admissions requirement based on a proficiency exam, and those who earn high marks on the test would receive college credit for their proficiency. “The cost of a college education is out of reach for a growing number of Illinois families, and to help combat those costs this legislation offers significant savings to students who have shown proficiency in a foreign language,” said Wheeler. “The cost of the average foreign language class at the University of Illinois last year was $5,553. Those are real dollars that can be saved when students do well in their high school foreign language studies.”

According to Wheeler, the college credit obtained through the foreign language proficiency exam would be similar to credit earned through success on an Advanced Placement test for college level high school classes.

“In addition to providing an opportunity to save on tuition costs, the Seal of Biliteracy is an impressive achievement that can be listed on college applications,” Wheeler said. “With admissions becoming more and more selective, this type of accomplishment will look very good to admissions counselors.”