Schools – SB 16 discussed
•       Bill would change formula used to distribute State money to local schools.  SB 16 (http://ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?GA=98&DocTypeID=SB&DocNum=16&GAID=12&SessionID=85&LegID=68381), 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 www.ilga.gov

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: http://my.ilga.gov/Home/FAQ .

“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 repwheeler64@gmail.com. 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.