Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner – Inauguration, Budget
•    State’s chief executive position to change hands on Monday, January 12, 2015.  The office of Governor-elect Bruce Rauner has unveiled their inauguration website.  Events, to be held on Sunday, January 11 and on Inauguration Day, will be held at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Lincoln Presidential Library, and the Old State Capitol. 

The swearing-in ceremony itself will be held at Springfield’s Prairie Capital Convention Center on Monday, January 12.  Attendees at the space-limited facility are requested to be present at 11:00 a.m.  In addition to Rauner, Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, Secretary of State Jesse White, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and Treasurer-elect Mike Frerichs will take their oaths of office. 
Flu Season Alert
•    Flu season hits Illinois with medical warnings.  Infectious disease specialists point out a gap between the strains of flu protected against by each fall’s flu vaccine and the strains that actually hit the United States.  The Associated Press and its partner, the Northwest Herald, reported an increase in flu-related hospital admissions on Saturday, December 13.  The Department of Public Health reports that 115 of these patients have been admitted to intensive care treatment units.  Cases of flu often need to be monitored with special care when the victim or potential victim is already facing other long-term or acute health challenges. 

Persons with infectious diseases are encouraged to stay away from public places, including schools, workplaces and especially health facilities.  The Chicago Tribune reported climbing absentee rates at Illinois primary and secondary schools on Wednesday, December 17 as parents withdrew pupils from classes and activities.  Persons who have been vaccinated will continue to be partly protected from this year’s flu threat.   

Illinois Comptroller – Succession – Special Session is Unconstitutional and Expensive
•    Governor Quinn calls special session; Constitution stands in way.  Some advocate creating a special election to add the office of Comptroller, on a one-time-only basis, to the presidential ballot that Illinoisans will vote on in November 2016.  Retiring Gov. Quinn has called a special session of the General Assembly to consider legislative measures to provide for an off-term election for the office of State Comptroller.  The General Assembly has been directed to meet in Springfield on Thursday, January 8. This special session will cost taxpayers roughly $46,000 and could be avoided entirely by waiting to address the prospect of a special election in the upcoming 99th General Assembly.

Another major hurtle however, is that the Constitution of Illinois does not currently provide for an off-term special election.  Section 2 of Article V of the Constitution provides explicitly that the Comptroller and the other statewide elected officials shall be elected at the general election in 1978 and every four years thereafter.  Section 3 of the Constitution’s transition schedule, approved by the voters in that year, moved the election dates for Statewide elected officials, including the Comptroller, from presidential election years to midterm election years to prevent national issues from overshadowing state issues.  The change became effective in 1976-1978 and was the only time in the history of the current Constitution that statewide officials have been elected to a two-year term.      
Judy Baar Topinka – biography
•    State Comptroller passes away in office; veteran elected official is remembered by both parties. Judy Baar Topinka, a lifelong resident of historic Riverside, Illinois, passed away on Wednesday, December 10.  The incumbent State Comptroller had just been reelected by popular vote to serve a second term in office; she would have taken her oath of office alongside Governor-elect Bruce Rauner on Monday, January 12.

Praise flowed in honor of Topinka’s memory from leaders of both political parties, aware that Topinka had been the most senior member among Illinois’ elected statewide officials.  First elected to statewide office in 1994 as the state Treasurer, Topinka temporarily stepped down in 2006 following an unsuccessful run for Governor.  The veteran executive then again sought statewide office in 2010 as state Comptroller, easily winning election to a four-year term in a new office.  Topinka was completing this term when she died this week.
CRYSTAL LAKE – Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has sought to alleviate the concerns of many residents following a number of misleading media pieces concerning Senate Bill 1342. SB 1342 pertains to surreptitious recording of private conversations and seeks to protect all citizens from having private conversations recorded and made public without their consent.

“I think it’s fair to say we should all be very concerned about the prospect of our freedom of speech being infringed upon,” said Wheeler. “Unfortunately, a great deal of misinformation is being circulated right now that it’s a crime to record the police. This is simply not true; in fact SB 1342 ensures each and every one of us is protected from someone else secretly recording a conversation we think is private.”

"The passing of Judy Baar Topinka is a tremendous blow to our state. Judy led the way for so many women like me to become involved in Illinois politics. She was a trailblazer who held firm to a belief in sound fiscal management and her leadership will be sorely missed."
General Assembly – Veto Session
•    Veto session ends on a partisan note.  The first week of the 2014 Veto Session took place prior to Thanksgiving. In legislative action, members held informational and subject-matter discussions on various issues.  Subjects discussed included the State formula for aid to public school districts, creation of a State medical insurance state exchange, and extension for one year of the Medical Practice Act. 

Key bill actions took place this week on various issues that included election law, Illinois lawsuits, the ridesharing industry, and truck speed limits. Many of these actions were partisan actions taken by the House and Senate Democrats, in sharp contrast to Governor-elect Bruce Rauner’s belief that it is “important that our Government be done on a bipartisan basis.”
During the second week of this year’s veto session, the majority party once again sought to ignore the demand of Illinois voters and their call for bipartisan solutions. On a party-line vote of 67-46, the Democrats in the Illinois House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 3075 under the guise of a narrative to reduce costs. The bill, if signed into law by Gov. Quinn prior to Gov.-Elect Rauner taking office, would slash civil juries from twelve members to six, while increasing pay by more than six-times its current level.

On face value this seems like a relatively good thing, local governments are financially strapped, why not save some money by reducing the size of juries. Governments can reduce expenditures and be able to better compensate those missing time from work to perform their civic duty. However, what about the rights of a person to have a jury of their peers, doesn’t it seem a bit obtuse to arbitrarily cut jury sizes in half? In a democracy as diverse as ours, a group of only six people may come to a very different conclusion than a group of twelve, particularly on civil cases where money is being awarded to one of the parties. The reason for twelve jury members was not determined without careful consideration, and for good reason.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has praised the people of the 64th District for their tireless efforts that put a halt to Senate Bill 16. Senate Bill 16 would have made major changes to the state education funding formula, shifting millions of dollars in state funding away from McHenry and Lake County schools. Wheeler noted that without the combined engagement of so many community members, both from within the education system from outside it, putting a halt to SB 16 would not have been possible.

“Senate Bill 16 was a bad bill, based on arbitrary distribution methods that would have done major damage to our suburban schools,” said Wheeler. “Without the involvement of so many members our community, stopping this bill would have not been a reality. I want to thank the thousands of concerned parents and citizens that attended the public forum in McHenry or signed the petition online. The school districts also did a tremendous job in communicating with the parents on just how damaging this bill would have been for our children’s education. Without these combined efforts, our schools would be headed down a path to a shambolic redistribution of funding.”
Schools – SB 16 discussed
•       Bill would change formula used to distribute State money to local schools.  SB 16 (, which was approved by the Senate in the 2014 spring session, would direct more State funding to some districts and less to others. 

At a subject matter hearing on Tuesday, November 18, the two House committees with substantive and appropriations responsibility for elementary and secondary education heard concerns about the controversial measure. Witnesses with concerns about the measure described how the proposed changes to the school aid formula could further increase pressure to raise property taxes in many school districts. Witnesses in support of the measure voiced relief at the prospect of additional state support in areas of Illinois with lower property tax revenues to support schools.  

During the subject matter hearing, House Resolution 1335 was introduced to create a House Education Funding Advisory Committee consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans. The purpose of which is to allow the House of Representatives adequate time to review the process by which the SB 16 funding formula was structured so that hurried legislation does not exacerbate the problem already facing many school districts. Under the current formula created through the Senate Bill, McHenry and Lake County school districts stand to lose millions in state funding, which would place an even greater burden on already over-stressed property tax payers.  

In response to a push by some legislators to quickly pass a damaging school funding reallocation bill, Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) on Tuesday signed on as a Chief Co-Sponsor of a new piece of legislation that would slow the process and create a House Education Funding Advisory Committee.

House Resolution 1335 was introduced yesterday to a joint meeting of the House Elementary & Secondary Education and House Appropriations- Elementary & Secondary Education committees toward the end of a 5 1/2 –hour subject matter hearing into SB16. As written and approved by the IL Senate, SB16 would significantly re-write the school funding formula and strip millions away from McHenry, Lake and other Collar County school districts.

“The Senate spent a great deal of time studying the distribution methods for state funding for pre-K-12 education, and the House was not included in that committee’s work,” said Wheeler. “Due to the importance of the issue of equity and adequacy of education funding in Illinois, the House needs to also do its due diligence in studying the problems and seeking solutions.”

According to Wheeler, the committee would include four Democrats and four Republicans who would be appointed by House Speaker Mike Madigan and Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs). The committee’s charge would be to conduct a thorough review of the existing school funding formula and make recommendations for reforms that would create a funding system that would be adequate, equitable and which prepares students for achievement and success after high school.

“The House of Representatives must stay engaged in this critical issue and not be swayed by those who wish to approve a bad bill,” Wheeler said. “We cannot allow a bad school funding formula to be replaced by a new, bad school funding formula. Our review needs to be comprehensive, and it needs to produce results that allow all school children to be successful.”
Lawmakers return to Springfield this week for the 2014 Veto Session. During the 2014 Spring Session, Governor Quinn issued either a partial or full veto of ten bills. He also issued a line item veto in relation to one of the FY15 appropriations bills (HB3793). Some of the vetoes were at the request of bill sponsors, but vetoed items of interest are summarized below:

HB3796: This bill seeks to protect units of government from those who abuse the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and are chronic filers of requests that overburden municipal employees. The bill would not affect those citizens who take an interest in issues and file FOIA requests in good faith. The Governor issued a full veto, claiming it decreased transparency.

HB4075: The Governor also issued a full veto of this bill, which seeks to add regulations to for-profit commercial transportation providers such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. The bill was an initiative of the association which includes almost all of the taxi cab companies in Chicago. Ridesharing companies oppose the bill because they feel it favors the current taxi cab companies while discouraging healthy competition within the transportation industry. Quinn also issued a full veto to a trailer bill, HB5331, which attempts to address the concerns expressed by the ridesharing industry about HB4075. In both cases, the Governor said he felt transportation issues were best left to local control.

SB930: Governor Quinn issued a full veto of this measure, which would increase the speed limit for semi-trucks and school buses on interstate highways in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties to 60 mph from the current limit of 55 mph. Quinn cited vehicle safety concerns in his veto statement.

SB2015: This bill seeks to increase the speed limit for cars on all highways under the jurisdiction of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to 70 mph. Last year a law was passed that increased the speed limit to 70 mph on highways outside of urban districts, and the new law would create consistency. The Governor issued a full veto of the bill.

SB2664: This bill amends the Condominium Property Act to provide that a purchaser of a condo unit in foreclosure is only required to pay nine months of any past-due assessments to the association. Governor Quinn issued an amendatory veto which adds an additional requirement for the mortgagee of the property requiring the bank holding the mortgage to pay any liens on the property. Quinn said this was necessary because he felt SB2664 as approved in the House and Senate did not do enough to protect condo associations from losing payments of past-due assessments and fees when foreclosed condos are sold.

In addition to the above items, which are expected to come before legislators during Veto Session, the following items of interest may also be debated either during Veto Session or during an early January Lame Duck Session:

Tax Hike Extension
Governor Quinn and Democrat leaders might push legislation to extend the 2011 temporary income tax increase, which is scheduled to partially repeal on January 1, 2015. The current temporary individual income tax is 5% and the corporate income tax rate is 7%. If the temporary income tax increase expires, the individual and corporate rates will fall to 3.75% and 5.25%, respectively.

Tax Policy Changes
In December 2013, House Speaker Mike Madigan announced that he was creating a joint committee on tax policies with the goal of enacting revenue-neutral tax policies. Members of the State Government and Revenue Committees met jointly several times between January and May and subsequently filed a report summarizing the testimony taken and issues discussed during their hearings.

It is anticipated that the Democrats will propose revenue-neutral tax policy changes the could include: the repeal of the Corporate Franchise Tax, the creation of a new “alternative minimum tax” on businesses based on payroll, an R&D Tax Credit extension and modernization, a Manufacturer’s Purchase Credit extension, a reduction to corporate income tax rate, and a reduction of LLC filing fees.

Pension Cost Shift
Speaker Madigan will likely renew his efforts to shift the normal pension costs from the state to school districts, community colleges, and universities. In FY15, it is estimated that a shift would have a $1.1 billion impact on locals and public universities.

Education Funding Reform
SB 16, a bill that would dramatically rewrite the funding formula used to disperse General State Aid to Illinois school districts, passed in the IL Senate in May. At the time, Senators were urged to vote in favor of the bill to “keep the education funding conversation going.” Over the summer, House Democrat members met secretly with education groups in anticipation of reviving SB 16.

As written, SB16 adds no new funding for Education; it simply reallocates existing resources in a manner that is very punitive to most collar county school districts that are deemed “wealthy” by the State. The schools located within IL House District 64 would see the following reduction in General State Aid if SB16 is approved and signed into law:
  • Nippersink District 2: 79.5%
  • Johnsburg District 12: 32.6%
  • McHenry District 15: 85.5% 
  • McHenry District 156: 38.4%
  • Richmond Burton District 157: 58.1%
  • Crystal Lake District 47: 72.6%
  • Crystal Lake District 155: 17.2%
  • Grass Lake District 36: 77.5%
  • Lake Villa District 41: 1.8%
  • Fox Lake District 114: 86.5%
  • Antioch District 117: 25.0%
  • Grant District 124: 13.0%
  • Wauconda District 118: 79.7%
A subject matter hearing for SB16 will be held on Tuesday, November 18 in Springfield. The timing of the hearing suggests a plan is in place for the bill to move either during Veto Session or during the Lame Duck Session.

Minimum Wage Hike
This issue appeared on the November 4 ballot as an advisory referendum. It was approved by 67% of the voters. There will likely be another push to increase the minimum wage for employees over the age of 18 from $8.25 an hour to $10. The federal minimum wage rate is $7.25. During the Spring Session there were not enough votes in the General Assembly to pass a minimum wage increase.

Surcharge on Millionaires
Speaker Madigan unsuccessfully proposed to change the Illinois Constitution to impose a 3% additional income surcharge on individuals earning $1 million and above. Instead an advisory referendum was placed on the November ballot, and 63% of Illinois’ voters voted in favor of the measure. It is anticipated that the Speaker will renew his efforts to pass the initiative. The surcharge would raise $800 million in revenue for education.

Equal Rights Amendment
SJRCA 75 is a constitutional amendment that seeks to add Illinois to the list of states that have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for inclusion in the United States Constitution.

Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program
SB 2758 creates the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act. The bill establishes an automatic payroll deduction IRA program for private-sector employees that will be overseen by the Treasurer, Comptroller, GOMB, and 7 gubernatorial appointees. Businesses with 25 or more employees are required to automatically set up the payroll deductions unless the employee opts out.

Opponents believe that the bill represents a mandate on employers who are already buried in state and federal paperwork. Those who oppose the bill also feel the state should not be in the business of establishing IRA programs for the private sector.

Cook County Pension Reform
Cook County continues to advocate for a pension reform bill in an effort to save the County from further credit downgrades. Although a Cook County pension reform bill, HB 1154 passed in the Senate, it did not have enough votes to pass the House. There will likely be another attempt to move this type of reform legislation.

Manufacturer’s Purchase Credit Extension
The Manufacturer’s Purchase Credit (MPC) expired on August 31, 2014. There were several attempts to pass the MPC extension over the course of the 2013 Veto Session and the 2014 Spring Session. It is expected that there will be another push to extend the MPC during Veto Session that will be retroactive to the purchases after August 31st.

The MPC is a sales-tax-relief credit granted to qualifying manufacturers in Illinois. It is earned when a manufacturer purchases manufacturing or graphic arts machinery and equipment that qualify for existing sales/use tax exemptions. Approximately 500 manufacturing firms qualify for the credit. When a manufacturer earns MPC credits, the firm may use these credits to pay State sales or use taxes on future purchases of qualifying production-related tangible personal property. Many legislators fear that this bill, which is a good idea, will be tacked onto a bad piece of legislation.

Repeal Premium Tax on Industrial Insured’s Captive Insurance
It is expected that legislation will move to reverse the tax hike provisions in SB 3324, which passed the Senate and House unanimously and was signed into law as P.A. 98-978. The bill was a Department of Insurance initiative that was presented to the General Assembly as clarifying an already existing law that surplus line insurance procured from an unauthorized insurer is subject to a 3.5% tax.

The Department’s fact sheet on SB 3324 made no mention of a new tax, closing a loophole, or captive insurance arrangements. The Department now claims that SB 3324 institutes a new tax that applies to an industrial insured’s captive insurance premiums. Examples of industrial insureds that use captive insurance include the City of Chicago airports, cyber liability policies and contractors, nursing homes, and restaurants/taverns that receive more than 25% of their revenue from alcohol sales. When it was discovered that the intention of the bill is to place a tax on industrial insured’s premiums it became apparent that the Department was either disingenuous at the time of SB 3324’s passage or is overaggressive in its interpretation of the bill.

House Republican members actively pursued an amendatory veto of the bill to remove the tax provisions. On August 15th, however, the Governor chose to sign the bill despite business and industry pleas. In response, the House Republican Caucus sent a letter to the Governor and to the director of the Department of Insurance formally requesting that the Department reverse its interpretation of a law that otherwise will increase taxes on Illinois employers. In addition, the House Republican Caucus filed HB 6302 on September 22nd to repeal the tax increase.

Eavesdropping/Police Body Camera Legislation
Legislators have been working on legislation that would create a comprehensive framework for an Illinois eavesdropping statue, including provisions that would govern the use of body cameras by police. The Illinois Supreme Court in March 2014 struck down the state's eavesdropping law, saying it is too broad. Since then, legislators have been working to reach consensus on an eavesdropping law. In addition, HBs 5803 and 5804 are shell bills to authorize and fund police body cameras. The two bills have been posted in the Judiciary Committee for a hearing on November 19th. Many believe, however, that legislation will start in the Senate.
State Represenative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) congratulates the winning entries from her first annual Veterans and Active Service Member Photo Contest. Taking first place in the contest was photo #17 “A Jolt from Home,” and taking second place was photo #6 “Still Waiting for You Son.” The individuals who sent in those photos won $250 and $150 respectively. The third place winner was photo #7 “John and Molly.” The individual who submitted that photo won $100.

“In honor of Veterans Day this year I want to recognize our local servicemen and women by featuring their photos on my web site,” said Wheeler. “We had a tremendous response and I really enjoyed putting them together in a commemorative slide show.”

Photographs of veterans or active service members, along with photo captions, were accepted through Wheeler’s email, and all photos were put into a slideshow that is still posted here.

Citizens did the voting by email, and the winners were announced on November 11.

Concerned about the impact the passage of SB16 would have on suburban school district revenues, State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is encouraging citizens from District 64 to go on line and submit written testimony stating their opposition to the bill.

“In addition to testimony that can be given in person at the November 18 hearing, the General Assembly allows for testimony that can be submitted through email, fax and U.S. mail,” said Wheeler. “Citizens who value the quality of our schools need to band together and submit witness slips that show our adamant opposition to this bill that would divert millions in General State Aid away from our schools.”

According to Wheeler, the school districts located within the boundaries of the 64th legislative House district would lose the following amounts of GSA if SB16 is passed as written and approved in the Illinois Senate:

· Nippersink District 2: 79.5%

· Johnsburg District 12: 32.6%

· McHenry District 15: 85.5%

· McHenry District 156: 38.4%

· Richmond Burton District 157: 58.1%

· Crystal Lake District 47: 72.6%

· Crystal Lake District 155: 17.2%

· Grass Lake District 36: 77.5%

· Lake Villa District 41: 1.8%

· Fox Lake District 114: 86.5%

· Antioch District 117: 25.0%

· Grant District 124: 13.0%

· Wauconda District 118: 79.7%

“School funding reform is an important issue that should be addressed, but SB16 does not solve the problem,” said Wheeler. “It merely creates new funding winners and losers by taking funding away from school districts whose taxpayers already shoulder a disproportionate share of the cost of educating kids in this state. We all need to work together to derail this horrible bill.”

Citizens may provide testimony by following these steps:

1. Go to

2. Scroll down the page and click on GA Dashboard (in red ink along the left side of the page)

3. Click on the Register icon and fill in your information (registration is recommended but not required)

4. Click on House, Committee Hearings, and then on the “Month” tab

5. Click on the piece of paper icon to the right of the listed hearing (November 18th, Appropriations- Elementary & Secondary Education)

6. Click on Create witness slip

7. Fill out the form

8. In the “subject matter” portion click “opponent”

9. Under “Testimony” you can have your written comments supplied to all board members. This is optional. Interestingly, they do not accept emailed testimony. You may fax your written statement to 217-557-2165 or you may mail it to Illinois State House, Room 426, 401 S. Second Street, Springfield, IL 62706. Make sure that your written testimony is clearly marked at the top of the page: SB16 Testimony, and your name.

10. Fill in verification code

11. Click the box to accept the terms

12. Click Submit

A “Frequently Asked Questions” document is available for those who have additional questions about the process. That document is available at: .

“Residents in suburban McHenry and Lake Counties have every reason to be concerned about SB16,” said Wheeler. “The fact that a hearing has been scheduled now rather than waiting until the new General Assembly is seated in January suggests that we may see movement of this bill during a lame duck session, when outgoing lawmakers are enticed to make unpopular votes.”

State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is working with neighboring lawmaker Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) on a bill that would provide school districts with additional protections against unfunded mandates.

HB6315 was filed in Springfield on November 5 and Wheeler quickly signed on as a Chief Co-Sponsor of the bill. “As a former school teacher, I am very aware of the hardship unfunded mandates place on school district budgets,” said Wheeler. “We need to recognize that our schools are already dealing with the State’s decisions to prorate their funding of schools, and we must stop passing along new mandates without providing funding sources.”

The bill specifically addresses a current practice in Springfield of the State Board of Education (ISBE) bringing mandates in the form of rules before the State’s Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR) for review and approval. By receiving approval by JCAR, the General Assembly is completely removed from the process. “I represent the voices of 108,000 Illinois residents who live in McHenry and Lake Counties, and when these regulations sidestep the General Assembly, I lose my opportunity to represent my constituents on an issue that often impacts their tax bills,” said Wheeler. “Every member of the Illinois House and Senate deserves to weigh in on these mandates and I will be a vocal advocate for the passage of this bill.”

HB6315 seeks to amend the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act by providing that for any rule that would impact the operations of school districts in Illinois, any interested person may request that JCAR determine whether the rule can be classified as an unfunded mandate. If JCAR makes that determination, their consideration of the rule must halt until the rule has been approved and acknowledged as an unfunded mandate through a joint resolution of the General Assembly.

“This is a common sense bill that would add transparency and accountability to the rule-making process for our schools,” said Wheeler. “I hope to see widespread, bipartisan support of this initiative.”

Tomorrow is Election Day; Make Sure Your Voice is Heard
President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” These are wise words from a great President. Your vote is your voice as a citizen of Illinois and of America. It is your opportunity to be heard, to hold your elected officials accountable for their decisions and to have a say in the issues that affect your community. Make sure your voice is heard tomorrow on Election Day, and make sure you vote. The McHenry County Clerk’s Web Site has an easy-to-use interactive tool that can assist with finding proper polling places. Polls are open from 6:00 AM until 7:00 PM, and if you have any questions about voting, you can call the County Clerk’s office at (815) 334-4242. In Lake County, the Clerk has posted a “Voter Power” page, through which voters can check their registration status and find out where they vote. For Lake County voting questions, the Clerk’s office can be reached at (847) 377-2314.

Take a Moment to Watch Wheeler Servicemen/Women Appreciation Video; Vote for Favorite Photo
Over the last several weeks, many District 64 residents submitted their favorite photos of their loved ones who currently serve, or who have previously served, in the Armed Forces. Please use the link below to view the photos, and submit your favorite photo by number to The winning photos will be announced on November 11. I hope you enjoy the slideshow. You may view it here.

New Traffic Lanes Opened from Rockford to Elgin
The Illinois Toll Highway Authority project expands the much-used toll road from two lanes in each direction to three. The project covers 37 miles of highway in rural north-central Illinois and in the outer Chicago suburbs west of Elgin’s Randall Road. In addition, pavement was replaced; some of the former pavement of the road, laid down as the Northwest Tollway in the 1950s and 1960s, was 56 years old. The ribbon-cutting was held on Tuesday, October 28.

The Rockford-Elgin work will be followed by 25 miles of work from Elgin to the Tri-State Tollway. The northwest Cook County segment of the project will widen the toll road from 6 lanes to 8 lanes (4 in each direction); this section of the project is scheduled to be completed by December 2016. The Jane Addams Memorial Tollway is one of the most heavily-used toll highways in the United States, serving more than 317,000 average daily vehicles.

The $2.5 billion Addams rebuilding and widening project is being financed by a near-doubling of tolls charged to motorists. The Illinois Toll Highway Authority describes the project in this press release.

Federal Judge Orders Appointment of Outside Monitor to Oversee IDOT Hiring Process
The hiring and promotion of senior-level officials at the Illinois Department of Transportation has come under serious scrutiny in recent months. The revelation that substantial numbers of the Department’s top positions were unilaterally “exempted” from State law forbidding political hiring in positions made headlines throughout Illinois. Questions about IDOT hiring deepened after the surprise departure of former Director Ann Schneider in late June 2014.

IDOT has ongoing, multi-billion-dollar responsibilities for the construction and rebuilding of Illinois roads, bridges, airports, and railroad lines. However, accusations have continued to reverberate, with nonpartisan figures led by Michael Shakman raising questions about the Department, its top staff, and their potential partisan conflicts of interest.

One way to increase a focus on potential political hiring at IDOT, and to start what could be the lengthy process of cleaning up the troubled agency, is to hire a federal monitor to oversee IDOT’s hiring decisions. Public watchdog Shakman had standing, based on his previous case work, to ask a court to order this be done. On Wednesday, October 22, federal magistrate judge Sidney Shenkier issued a court order to IDOT to hire monitor Noelle Brennan. Brennan will have the right to scrutinize any hiring decision made by IDOT, but is expected to concentrate on positions defined as implementation positions. Holders of implementation positions don’t make policy, and their officeholders should not be hired for political reasons. Holders of policy positions, by contrast, shape the policies that others implement. These positions typically include the highest-ranking aides to the director of the Department; however, in a patronage-ridden agency people sometimes become political hires even if their standing is far below the policymaking level. The Chicago Tribune describes Brennan’s hiring in this editorial. The Jacksonville Journal-Courier praises Judge Shenkier’s decision here.

Study by Arizona State University (ASU) Ranks Illinois 45th in Job Creation
Job growth in Illinois the first nine months of 2014 was less than 1% of total Illinois employment. According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, more than 5.8 million Illinois residents are employed in the nonfarm sector. After hundreds of thousands of jobs disappeared in the 2008-2014 “Great Recession,” Illinois has struggled to recover the lost ground.

36,000 new jobs were created in Illinois in the first nine months of 2014. By contrast, Texas created more than 362,000 new jobs in the same period, achieving job growth of 3.2% as opposed to Illinois’ 0.6%. Energy-rich states that have legalized horizontal-shale drilling for crude oil and natural gas scored well in the ASU study, with North Dakota ranked #1 among the 50 states and Texas #3.

Illinois unemployment remains at recession levels, notching in at 6.6% in September 2014. The story was published in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, October 28.

Continued Controversy Surrounds Massive Fare Hike Request
While the governing board of Metra has presented its ten-year, 68% fare-hike-ramp-up plan as a way to garner cash flow for new infrastructure, the agency’s actual spending plans call for dedicating the first year’s fare hike to pension funding and employee compensation (particularly employee and retiree health care), not new trains.

Metra, the public-sector agency that operates eleven commuter railroad lines in the Chicago area, shares the pension-funding crisis borne by other unionized public-sector employers throughout Illinois. A variety of public-sector employees, including Metra train workers, have been promised generous retirement packages. The Chicago Tribune points out that commuters will pay more in 2015 for their train tickets but will find themselves riding on the same old railroad cars and slow, jolting roadbeds.

Metra is the commuter-train operating board of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), the three-operating-board umbrella panel that governs overall Chicago-area mass transit policies. The two other RTA operating boards, the Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA) and Pace, the suburban bus agency, face pension and personnel-compensation challenges similar to Metra.
As the holiday season approaches, State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is once again partnering with other Illinois legislators to help provide Thanksgiving and Holiday turkeys for hungry families through the Fraternite Notre Dame Religious Order. Fraternite Notre Dame operates religious and humanitarian missions on four continents, and operates in this area from a church on Central Avenue in Chicago.

According to Wheeler, last year the mission served thousands of holiday meals and passed out over 500 turkeys. “Fraternite Notre Dame engages in charitable work which includes service at soup kitchens, hospitals, schools and orphanages, and they also provide aid to needy families,” said Wheeler. “The work they do on behalf of those facing hard times is very meaningful and donations toward the holiday turkey project are greatly appreciated.”

Those interested in providing assistance may do so either by sending a donation or by volunteering to distribute meals and meal packages before Thanksgiving. “Most of us are incredibly fortunate, in that we never have to go without a meal,” Wheeler said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for people to share their good fortune with those who know too well what it feels like to be hungry. Legislative leaders from both political parties have already made generous donations to this program, and I would urge others to help make the upcoming holidays special for struggling families right here in Illinois.”

Donation checks made out to Fraternite Notre Dame should be mailed to the church at 502 North Central Avenue, Chicago, IL 60644. Please write “Thanksgiving Turkeys” on the memo line. People who are interested in helping distribute food should contact Wheeler’s office at (815) 900-6759.
Over the last several weeks, many District 64 residents submitted their favorite photos of their loved ones who currently serve, or who previously served, in the Armed Forces. Please use the link below to view the photos, and submit your favorite photo by number to The winning photos will be announced on November 11.

Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) today announced that $48.1 million in State funding has been earmarked for a major U.S. Route 14 improvement project in the McHenry County portion of IL House District 64.

Two separate projects managed by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will improve U.S. Route 14 between Woodstock and Crystal Lake. Reconstruction and widening will be done on U.S. 14 from West Lake Shore Drive to Lucas Road, and 2.3 miles of roadway reconstruction, including adding lanes, widening and resurfacing and drainage improvements, will be done from Lucas Road to Crystal Lake Road in Crystal Lake.

“These are vital transportation projects that will improve safety and travel times on one of McHenry County’s busiest roads,” Wheeler said. “Once completed, the reconstructions, widenings and additional lanes will enhance our transportation infrastructure in a way that will hopefully attract new businesses and jobs to that area.”
In recognition to her commitment to agriculture in McHenry County and across Illinois, State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has been named a “Friend of Agriculture” by the McHenry County Farm Bureau.

Farm Bureau President Michele Aavang and Bureau Manager Dan Volkers presented Wheeler with the award at an event on October 14 in McHenry. “Our legislative officials have a great working relationship with our organization and serve our farmers and producers well,” said Volkers.

Representatives from the Farm Bureau rank all Illinois legislators on their support of the agriculture industry through their votes in Springfield and their score on an accessibility rating scale. Those with a combined score of 60% or more receive the award.

“I recognize the far-reaching benefits of Illinois’ agricultural products and the important role farmers play in providing quality food,” said Wheeler. “It is an honor to receive this award from such an important part of our McHenry County community.”
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has posted an on-line petition in opposition of Senate Bill 16, a bill that would strip millions away from hundreds of Illinois school districts and channel the money toward other schools.

The petition is available on Wheeler’s legislative web site at and citizens from across the state are encouraged to sign it.

SB16 is a massive rewrite of the school funding formula that determines how General State Aid (GSA) is distributed to Illinois’ school districts. It does not add any additional funding toward education.  As written and approved in the Senate, the bill uses a weighted formula that is punitive to most suburban school districts.

“Most of my school districts will lose between 70%-86% of their State funding if Senate Bill 16 is passed and signed into law,” said Wheeler. “This bill does not solve funding inequities in Illinois. It’s just an unfair redistribution of funds with every one of my school districts losing large amounts of money.”

Wheeler is a Chief Co-Sponsor of House Resolution 1276, a measure that denounces SB16 and encourages a comprehensive and fair funding reform process that is inclusive of all stakeholder points of view. “SB16 is not the answer to education funding reform,” said Wheeler. “Funding for education is a very serious issue and the ultimate reforms should not create winners and losers, but rather create a system where all kids can be winners.”
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) will join Senator Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) and other local lawmakers on October 14 for a public forum on Senate Bill 16, a proposal that rewrites Illinois’ school funding formula and strips state aid away from most suburban school districts.

The forum will take place from 6:30-8:30 PM at McHenry West High School, 4724 W. Crystal Lake Road in McHenry. Joining Wheeler and Althoff at the event will be Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles), and Representatives Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) and Jack Franks (D-Woodstock). Local school superintendents and school board members will also be on hand to discuss the specific impact SB16 would have on their districts.

“Senate Bill 16 has already been approved in the Illinois Senate and now it is pending in the House,” said Wheeler. “As written, SB16 diverts millions in General State Aid away from local schools and channels it toward Chicago and many downstate schools. It’s an unfair redistribution of funds with every one of my school districts losing large amounts of funding.”

According to Wheeler, the school districts located within the boundaries of the 64th legislative House district would lose the following amounts of GSA if SB16 is passed:

· Nippersink District 2: 79.5%
· Johnsburg District 12: 32.6%
· McHenry District 15: 85.5%
· McHenry District 156: 38.4%
· Richmond Burton District 157: 58.1%
· Crystal Lake District 47: 72.6%
· Crystal Lake District 155: 17.2%
· Grass Lake District 36: 77.5%
· Lake Villa District 41: 1.8%
· Fox Lake District 114: 86.5%
· Antioch District 117: 25.0%
· Grant District 124: 13.0%
· Wauconda District 118: 79.7%

“School funding reform is an important issue that should be addressed, but SB16 does not solve the problem,” said Wheeler. “It merely creates new funding winners and losers by taking funding away from school districts whose taxpayers already shoulder a disproportionate share of the cost of educating kids in this state.”

Those who attend the forum will be given the opportunity to submit questions or concerns to panel participants.

According to Wheeler, several Representatives have joined together to sponsor a House Resolution that denounces SB16 in favor of comprehensive and fair school funding reform. Wheeler is a Chief Co-Sponsor of HR1276. You can read the text of the resolution here.
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) will join Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for a Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Roundtable in Crystal Lake on Wednesday, October 8.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 10:30AM until noon at Park Place Banquets, 406 W. Woodstock Street in Crystal Lake. At the forum, Madigan will update community leaders on security breaches, identity theft and common financial scams directed at consumers in Crystal Lake and the surrounding area.
“Consumer fraud is a growing problem that can have devastating consequences for people,” said Wheeler. “I’m pleased to be participating in this roundtable event and encourage people from this area to attend so they can learn how to best protect themselves from these scams.”

Additional information for the prevention of consumer fraud and identity theft, and a form to report incidences can be found at
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has asked the Chairwoman of the Illinois House’ Elementary & Secondary Education Committee to reschedule an ill-timed hearing into the feasibility of the State Board of Education taking over the functions of the Illinois High School Athletics Association (IHSA).

The Elementary & Secondary Education Committee, chaired by Representative Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) has scheduled a meeting for 4:00 PM Friday, October 3 at a Chicago south-side high school to gather testimony on the issue.

“This is a blatant example of political shenanigans at its finest,” said Wheeler, a member of the committee. “This is a late Friday afternoon on a football Friday during Homecoming season. All schools are going to be ‘all hands on deck’ with their local sporting events and will be unable to send representation to the hearing.”

House Resolution 895, approved on April 7 in a 55-51 vote, directs the Elementary & Secondary Education Committee to hold hearings on the administration and funding of high school sports, the safety of athletes, the systems and protocols of the IHSA, the costs associated with the administration of high school sports and the feasibility of transferring the duties and functions of the IHSA to the State Board of Education. Chapa LaVia was the Chief Sponsor of the resolution.

“They could not possibly have made this hearing more inconvenient for the major stakeholders who stand to lose the most,” said Wheeler. “Families, coaches, volunteers and players will be busy that night with local sporting events, but I believe it’s by design. I must wonder if they want to shut the major stakeholders out of the discussion.”

At the time of this posting, Chapa LaVia had not responded to Wheeler’s request for a meeting date and time change.
State Representative Barbara Wheeler is helping lead the fight against a devastating rewrite of the school funding formula that would strip away most general state aid from McHenry and Lake County school districts.

Wheeler, along with State Representatives Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove), David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) and Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake), are sponsoring House Resolution 1276, which denounces SB16 and the damaging consequences it would have on most suburban school districts. The resolution also expresses support for comprehensive education funding reform that is fair to all parties.

“SB 16 is a quick-fix attempt to channel hard-earned tax dollars away from suburban schools and channel it to the Chicago Public Schools and to other struggling districts,” said Wheeler. “I recognize and support the need for comprehensive and fair education funding reform, but SB16 would fund struggling districts through an undue burden on the property taxpayers in the suburbs. It’s unfair and unacceptable.”

SB16 passed in the Illinois Senate during the final days of the Spring legislative session but was not called for a vote in the House of Representatives. House Democrats have been meeting with education advocacy groups over the summer to discuss SB16 and it is likely that a revised version of the bill will surface during the General Assembly’s November veto session.

“I am hopeful that legislators are interested in taking the necessary time and effort to properly address education funding shortfalls in a way that is fair and equitable,” said Wheeler. “SB16, as it currently is written, would have a devastating impact on our local schools and lead to widespread teacher layoffs and/or costly referendums to raise taxes locally. I know we can do better.”

You may read the full text of the resolution here.