SPRINGFIELD – Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is sponsoring House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendments 1 and 2 (HJRCA 1 and HJRCA 2) to revive efforts to implement term-limits and reform redistricting of elected offices. HJRCA 1 seeks to limit the number of terms in office for Illinois State Senators and Representatives, while HJRCA 2 seeks to reform the redistricting process by taking the process of drawing legislative districts out of the hands of the officials holding those respective offices.

“These initiatives are no-brainers and things the people of Illinois have been demanding for far too long,” said Wheeler. “Last year, opponents of term-limits and fair redistricting maps used technicalities and gimmicks to keep two similar efforts from getting on the ballot and deliberately prevent the voters of Illinois from having a fair say. Now that Gov. Rauner has been inaugurated, we have an historic opportunity to finally make this a reality and I look forward to working with him and my legislative colleagues to bring these much needed reforms to our state.”

CRYSTAL LAKE – Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has filed House Resolution 9 (HR9) to create a committee to thoroughly examine the existing distribution of education funding in the state. HR9 will create the House Education Funding Advisory Committee to conduct a thorough review of the existing methods of education funding and distribution in Illinois. This proposal was originally made during November’s joint hearing of the House Elementary & Secondary Education Committee and House Appropriations – Elementary & Secondary Education Committee, but was postponed once Senate Bill 16 (SB16) was successful halted.

Last fall, SB16 attempted to substantially re-write the school funding formula in the state. SB16 would have stripped millions of dollars in funding from McHenry and Lake County Schools. While the bill was ultimately killed due to the efforts of numerous concerned parents and educators, more action to change the funding formula is expected during the 99th General Assembly.

“Providing for our children’s future is the most important thing to every parent,” said Wheeler. “When the Senate tried to force through Senate Bill 16 last year they spent a great deal of time studying our current distribution formula. Unfortunately, the House was not given the same opportunity to examine the equity in our school funding. This lake of sufficient involvement from the House led to the wholly inadequate nature of SB16. By creating this committee it will ensure that we can avoid another bill like that.”
Governor Bruce Rauner
· Governor takes steps to increase opportunities. Moving beyond traditional “affirmative action,” Gov. Bruce Rauner called on Tuesday, January 20 for increased participation by Illinois veterans and members of opportunity groups in Illinois business procurement, apprenticeship programs, and trade union training programs. In addition, the Department of Central management Services (CMS) - the state’s chief hiring and procurement arm – is instructed to study the hiring and awarding of contracts to Illinois veterans. The Governor’s instructions are included in Executive Order 15-12.

CMS is directed to study participation of veteran-owned businesses in Illinois’s procurement process, with a report due by June 30, 2015. The executive order also reaffirms the State’s commitment to procurement support for businesses owned and controlled by members of opportunity groups, with a report due by December 31, 2015. Opportunity groups listed by the Governor include members of racial minorities, women, and persons with disabilities. The Department is instructed to recommend solutions and methods to remedy any disparity in procurement awards.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has been named the Illinois State Director of the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) for 2015. The NFWL, now in its seventy-seventh year of operation, is a non-profit, non-partisan foundation that works to promote female elected officials and encourages women’s involvement in government. As the Director for the State of Illinois, Wheeler will seek to promote NFWL’s mission of advancing women in government on the state and local levels.

“When I was first contacted by the National Foundation for Women Legislators, I must say I wasn’t expecting to be asked to be their State Director,” said Wheeler. “We are fortunate in Illinois to have a number of excellent and skilled women in government, and it’s a privilege to be thought of among that group. Although I wasn’t expecting it, I’m honored to take on the position. I know first-hand the difficulties that a woman can face in the world of politics and government and I hope my own experiences will aid me in taking on this position and helping engage more women in the governmental process.”

Rauner looks Downstate for key DNR hire. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the State agency that oversees Illinois fishing licenses and hunting licenses; it watches over most state parks, fish and wildlife areas, and natural areas. The Department also oversees Illinois coal mining and fossil-fuel drilling, including fracking for crude oil and natural gas.

Representative Wayne Rosenthal (R-Morrisonville) has been picked by Governor Rauner to be DNR’s new director. News of the appointment became public on Thursday, January 15. The Montgomery County-based Journal News has the story of the new path taken by their area’s hometown lawmaker.

A veteran U.S. fighter pilot with the Illinois Air National Guard, Rosenthal has served in the House of Representatives as a working farmer and advocate for Illinois hunters and sportsmen. Rosenthal is expected to leave the Illinois House on Monday, January 19. State law provides for the prompt appointment by local leaders of a replacement lawmaker for the 95th House District, which includes all of Montgomery County and portions of Christian, Macoupin and Madison counties.

New Comptroller Leslie Munger has joined Governor Rauner’s call for sharp changes in Illinois governmental policies and spending habits. A resident of the northern Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire, she is a lifelong worker in the private sector with executive experience at McKinsey & Company, Proctor & Gamble, and Helene Curtis/Unilever. She is using her private-sector experience to work to make Illinois’ finances more accessible to the public. Illinois’ financial information portal, The Ledger, is highlighted on the Comptroller’s website.

Leslie Munger took the oath of office on Monday, January 12 to replace elected Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka, who died in December 2014 before she could take the oath of office. Munger, Bruce Rauner, and Evelyn Sanguinetti were joined in statewide office by Secretary of State Jesse White, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and Treasurer Mike Frerichs. Munger has stated her intent to run as the incumbent Comptroller in a special election to be held statewide in November 2014.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin
• Jim Durkin officially elected House Republican Leader. The choice, which followed the Caucus’s unanimous announcement after the November 2014 election that Durkin was their choice to lead them for a full term, was made official on Wednesday, January 14. In the House’s inaugural session, Durkin was nominated by colleagues Chad Hays, Barbara Wheeler, and Bill Mitchell. Under State law two candidates run for Speaker of the House, and the second candidate becomes the Leader of the minority party. 47 Republicans represent districts throughout Illinois in the 99th General Assembly, which will serve into January 2017. The election took place immediately after the inauguration of the members of the new House.

“If we work together,” Durkin reminded his colleagues, “we have the ability to put our state back on the path to prosperity and success.” Durkin’s office posted additional news about the House Republican Leader’s election here.

Governor Bruce Rauner and Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti
• Rauner takes oath of office; freezes nonessential State spending. As he launched into his duties as Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner issued a series of executive orders to freeze all nonessential State spending, including spending on infrastructure projects. Announcing that he will serve without pay, the new Governor announced he would impose a new code of ethics on himself and his office as part of a dramatic shift in the State political culture.

Governor Rauner has appointed Leslie Munger to be the new Comptroller of Illinois, replacing the late Judy Barr Topinka. He has made budget reform, job creation, economic growth, and educational reform four of the top priorities of his new administration. He and his staff have signaled their readiness to use additional executive orders to reorganize State agencies, abolish redundant and unnecessary offices, and reduce State spending. The new Governor is deeply concerned about Illinois’ economic standing in relation to comparable and neighboring states, and believes that genuine sacrifices will be necessary for the State to regain its standing and provide opportunities to young workers and families.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is sponsoring House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 3 (HJRCA3), which eliminates the offices of Comptroller and Treasurer and merges them into one office of the Comptroller of the Treasury. Following the untimely passing of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, there has been a renewed vigor in the effort to merge the offices of the state’s check writer and investment manager to tackle the fiscal crisis facing the state, a cause Topinka herself championed.

“The state stands to save an estimated $12 million annually by merging the Comptroller and Treasurer into one office,” said Wheeler. “This merger is a no-brainer given the calamitous situation our state’s finances have been left in by the last administration. Gov. Rauner, and newly appointed Comptroller Munger, support a merger of these offices to help curb our fiscal crisis. Judy Baar Topinka was a proponent of this for years and I believe there could be no better way to honor her memory than by finally doing this.”

SPRINGFIELD – Today Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) took the Oath of Office for her second term in the Illinois House Representatives. Wheeler and her colleagues in the General Assembly took their respective oaths this morning in Springfield, ringing in the 99th General Assembly and kicking off a new period in Illinois with new Governor Bruce Rauner having been sworn-in on Monday.

“It is very humbling to take the Oath of Office,” said Wheeler. “I want to thank the people of the 64th District for giving me the opportunity to serve them once more in Springfield. We have an historic opportunity with new Governor Bruce Rauner to bring sorely needed, and necessary, change to government in Illinois and I’m thrilled to have the chance to work with him over the course of the next couple years. For too many years our state has lacked strong and decisive leadership in the executive branch and with Governor Rauner I know this will not be a problem anymore.”

Governor Bruce Rauner 
·         Governor-elect completes plans for inaugural ceremony.  The new Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, has been sworn in.  This is the first inauguration without the traditional inaugural ball, replaced by an Inauguration concert.  The concert, headlined by Toby Keith, and opened by two of our own House Republican musicmakers Chad Hays and Mike Tryon.  The inauguration website http://illinoisinauguration.com/ has more details on inaugural events.

After the oath of office, Rauner now faces the tremendous challenges borne by Illinois and its people.  Illinois’ jobless rate has remained at recession levels (6.4 percent) in the most recent unemployment report, released December 18 for the month of November 2014.  Faster economic growth in states comparable to, or bordering, Illinois points out the consequences of many of the mistaken policy decisions made by Illinois’ outgoing administration, and creates hope for significant changes in the way Illinois’ public sector performs the people’s work in the Prairie State.   

Governor OKs New Eavesdropping Restrictions
·         New law allows citizens to record law enforcement officers.  Last week, Gov. Quinn signed SB 1342 into law as P.A. 98-1142; the measure puts new eavesdropping restrictions into place after the Illinois Supreme Court threw out the previous eavesdropping law last March.

As a result of the March court ruling, all Illinois residents had absolutely no expectation of privacy in regards to eavesdropping or digital recordings in public or private, not just law enforcement officers.  There were no protections in place for anyone in Illinois against being recorded against their wishes.

Under the previous law, recording anyone against their will in Illinois could be punishable under a Class 4 felony with a one to three years sentence.  For eavesdropping upon law enforcement (State’s Attorneys, Police Officers, and agents of the Attorney General) that punishment was significantly higher at a Class 1 Felony punishable with a four to 15 year sentence.

As of January 1, 2015, more than 200 new laws took effect in Illinois. Here is a brief summary of a few of these new laws.  For a complete list of new laws by category, please click here.

·         Access to Birth Certificates of Adopted Persons
Allows adult grandchildren to access birth certificates and other information regarding their deceased grandparents if the grandparent was adopted. Also allows a birth parent of an adopted child to receive a non-certified copy of an original birth certificate if certain conditions are met. PA 98-0704 (HB 5949)