The day of remembrance for those who have served our country, especially those who have fallen in its service, was observed on Monday, May 25. Memorial Day was raised from informal, local day of observance to national holiday through the effort of native Illinoisan General John A. Logan, a veteran of the Civil War and head of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Due to the significant workload facing the General Assembly before its scheduled May 31st adjournment, the Illinois House of Representatives reconvened and resumed its work on Monday.
SPRINGFIELD – State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) called the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget from the Illinois House Democrats a dishonest back-breaker of the middle class.

“The partisan budget offered today is filled with empty promises,” said Wheeler. “It promises spending $4 billion over what we expect in revenue. How can we tell our most vulnerable we will provide for them, but at the same time pass a budget that will run out of money and leave them at risk? It’s wrong, and I will not support an unbalanced budget.”

Illinois House Democrats have been producing a number of phony budget bills in recent weeks, knowing they would not pass. This week, after pulling away from bipartisan budget discussions, House Democrats introduced their own budget without input from the other side of the aisle or the Governor.

“If we’ve learned only one thing from the recession, it’s that we cannot spend more than we have,” said Wheeler. “The Illinois Constitution even says that we cannot spend more than we have. I would hope that the day after we honor the memory of our fallen soldiers, we would possess their same integrity and follow the laws of the country for which they have fought and died.”
Most Senate bills had to be out of House committee by the end of last week to remain alive. As the General Assembly continues to move towards May 31 adjournment, members of the Illinois House and Senate scrambled to get committee approval for their bills. This week, May 18 through May 22, is the deadline for Senate bills on the House floor.

By May 22, most Senate bills will either have been passed by the House and sent to the Governor for final signature, passed by the House as amended and sent back to the Senate for concurrence, or will have been sent to the House Rules Committee for failure to meet the deadline. Meanwhile, the Senate has a parallel deadline for House bills.
50-state survey shows recent Illinois job growth has underperformed neighboring states. The study, conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trusts, counted the rates of new job creation in each of the 50 states between January 2008 (marking the start of the 2008-15 downturn) and March 2015. The study was released on Wednesday, May 13.

Study findings indicated that, when measured by percentage, the rate of job growth in Illinois underperformed similar numbers in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Although Illinois’ job growth was significantly slower than that of the nation as a whole, slow rates were also posted by many states in the U.S. Northeast other than New York. Some Midwestern states did well in the Pew study, with Michigan bouncing back significantly from the motor vehicle industry-led crash of the late 2000s. Paced by changes in labor-management law, Michigan added 417,900 jobs since its low point of March 2010, outpacing many of its Rust Belt neighbors.
Trail-lawyer-friendly State laws and court procedures, which go far beyond the rights granted to trial lawyers in neighboring and comparable states, are blamed for a substantial share of the continued economic gap between Illinois and the rest of the U.S. House Republicans are working with civil justice reform groups to enact needed reforms to these laws.

Ragged and inconsistent legal dicta, derived from individual outliers of case law, have helped to create lawsuit-friendly Illinois courtrooms where trial lawyers eagerly congregate to go venue-shopping. Cook County contains less than half of the people of Illinois, but accounts for 64.1% of all court cases filed in Illinois. In southern Illinois, Madison County and St. Clair County, twin counties located across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, have become even more of a haven for venue-shopping. Civil actions are filed in Madison County at double the rate of Cook County, 6.5 times the rate of filings in Illinois outside these three counties, and many times the rate of filings of other U.S. states that do not encourage plaintiff law. Advocates have long called Madison County a “judicial hellhole.”
Both the House and the Senate held repeated budget hearings last week to discuss estimated FY16 budget shortfalls of $6 billion to $8 billion, depending on how the red ink is counted.

Governor Rauner submitted a budget for FY16 to the General Assembly in February. Since that time, Democrats that opposes Rauner have repeatedly attacked budgetary adjustments made in this spending plan, but have neither generated a budget of their own nor issued a projection of State revenues from which a budget can be generated. The General Assembly is required to enact a budget for FY16, starting July 1, no later than May 31.
SPRINGFIELD – State Representatives Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) and Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake), seat mates in the House Chamber and who represent neighboring districts, joined together in a call for meaningful property tax reform. They noted reforms need to be carried out through thoughtful discussion and deliberation, not through the phony tactics being employed by Democrats who knew the legislation debated today would never arrive at the Governor’s desk.

“In Lake and McHenry Counties, we feel the heavy burden of property taxes every single day, and we absolutely need property tax reform,” said Wheeler. “However, the amendment offered before the House today, while being well intentioned, was irresponsible. The amendment won’t become law, it won’t relieve the burden on families struggling to stay in their homes, and it won’t ensure the solvency of our schools and communities.”

In the ongoing theme of the past couple weeks in Springfield, Democrats again brought a doomed property tax amendment before the House knowing it wouldn’t ever become law. Jesiel and Wheeler are calling for support of House Bill 136, and its release from the House Rules Committee by the Speaker, which seeks common sense property tax reform that does not put local schools and residents’ quality of life in jeopardy.
Once again the Democrat-controlled House brought sham legislation to a vote for the sole purpose of putting Republican lawmakers in a trick bag and embarrassing the new Governor.

House Republicans have long worked to provide Illinoisans with much needed and deserved property tax relief. Each year members of the House Republican Caucus introduce legislation that would deliver property tax relief and each year the Democrats block those measures. The real roadblock to property tax relief has been the Democrat-controlled legislature.

It is not without merit that House Republicans question the majority leadership’s commitment to property tax relief, when out of the clear blue sky they embrace so-called property tax freeze legislation that neither includes reforms nor guarantees that property taxes won’t increase. It is not hard to draw the accurate conclusion that it is just more political theatre.
SPRINGFIELD – State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) today said Springfield was turned into a circus for the second week in a row as the Democratic Majority in the House once again forced an extraneous vote on legislation not meant to become law. This time, the phony legislation was in relation to Gov. Rauner’s proposed “right to work” zones.

“My constituents sent me to Springfield to right the sinking ship that is the financial situation of our state,” said Wheeler. “Instead, for the second straight week the House has been turned into a circus with lopsided committees of the whole and doomed bills that are disrupting the progress we have been making in negotiations toward a budget deal.”

Various stake holders have been meeting with working groups that include Senators and Representatives from both parties over recent weeks to work out the details of various budget proposals, including the issue of right to work zones. However, no agreement has yet been struck between the involved parties. As with last week’s bogus legislation that claimed to restore human services funding, Wheeler voted present to highlight the irregular and purely partisan nature of today’s action.
Rep. Wheeler with Lake County Advocate Animal Mitchell 
and Assistant State’s Attorney Jason Grindell
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is sponsoring Senate Bill 1389, which passed the Illinois Senate with full support and is now being heard in the Illinois House. Following a traumatic experience, animals, often dogs, are used in therapeutic ways to help children and the developmentally disabled overcome the experience. This legislation allows these dogs to continue to be used to help foster a safe and healthy environment during court proceedings.

“When a child is abused or suffers a traumatic experience, it is often the comfort of an animal that helps them get over it,” said Wheeler. “Animals pass no judgement; they just want to be your friend. This caring nature is what makes them so valuable for a child who has suffered.”

SB1389 permits courts handling criminal cases that involve the abuse or exploitation of a child, or someone who is developmentally disabled, to allow the victim to have their service or therapeutic dog at their side during proceedings. Research by the Humane Society has shown that children who have suffered trauma are more likely to come out of their “shell” through the comfort provided by a service animal. When testifying in a criminal case, children are often so intimidated by facing their abuser they aren't able to complete testimony before the court. The mere presence of the animal they have developed a comforting bond with can be essential to helping them overcome the intimidating nature of the experience.
The Lincoln Funeral Coalition organized a series of events to mark the 150th anniversary of the return of President Abraham Lincoln’s remains to Illinois. On May 2 and May 3, the event included ceremonies, lectures, workshops, and two one-day ceremonial processions featuring costumed reenactors. Saturday’s procession represented the delivery of the remains from the original railroad line to the Old State Capitol (where Lincoln was viewed on May 3-4, 1865), and on Sunday reenactors paid homage to Lincoln’s memory as they proceeded from the Old State Capitol to Oak Ridge Cemetery. Their destinations, the Old State Capitol and Lincoln’s Tomb, are State of Illinois historic sites open to the public.
SPRINGFIELD – State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) today called an effort by Democrats to amend and pass an un-agreed to budget bill a direct demonstration by Speaker Madigan to circumvent the budget process.

“Today, we have seen the worst of politics in Illinois rear its ugly head once again,” said Wheeler. “Illinois families are hurting; Illinoisans have made it clear they want an honest and bipartisan budget that brings everyone to the table. The action taken today completely ignores that and is going to make it even harder to help our families through the harsh fiscal reality we are facing.”

Without prior notice, Speaker Madigan filed and passed an amendment out of his Rules Committee to a budget bill and then brought it immediately before the full House Chamber. Upon its immediate failure, Democrats filed 15 subsequent amendments and immediately brought them to the floor, deliberately to disallow Republicans adequate time to review the amendments offered.
The State of Illinois has faced continuous challenges in “keeping the lights on” during the final months of FY15. When the Governor’s office changed hands in January, Governor Bruce Rauner found that the FY15 budget passed by Democrat majorities and signed by former Governor Pat Quinn was drastically unbalanced. The General Assembly and the Rauner administration have worked together since that time to shift funds around to cover shortfalls. In some cases, additional cuts were imposed on some agencies and their spending programs.

Citing an improving economy, Governor Rauner announced Thursday that he would restore $26 million to social service and public health grants that were frozen earlier this year because of budget constraints. Grants for autism, addiction prevention, assistance for homeless, teen REACH and other programs were impacted by the freeze. The Governor was able to restore funding to these programs because of better than expected revenues projections. The bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability expects an additional $300 million to $500 million in tax revenue because of an improving economy in Illinois.
The process used to draw maps for members of the Illinois House and Senate is credited by many observers with a key role in the outcome of legislative elections. Mapmaker can predict voting patterns and draw “safe” districts for incumbent lawmakers of either political party.

On Tuesday, April 28, a bipartisan Illinois remap coalition announced the launching of a petition drive to change the process under which Illinois legislative-district maps are drawn. Supporters say the proposed amendment could get on the ballot in a future Illinois election if 290,216 Illinois voters sign a petition to request that the question be placed on the ballot.
Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) recently passed House Bill 437 with the full support of the Illinois House. The bill allows for municipalities and counties to set up composting days, much like yard sale days, and also creates permanent compost collection sites so yard waste can be converted into useful materials.

“A number of communities have banned the burning of leaves and lawn waste, making it very difficult for homeowners to deal with the excess waste,” said Wheeler. “This bill makes it easy for residents to dispose of the waste at drop-off locations or on special collection days. It also provides the added benefit of ensuring lawn garbage can actually be turned into something useful.”

HB 437 will authorize municipalities and counties to approve one-day compostable waste collection events. Creation of these one-day events, which will be operated in a manner similar to one-day yard sale events, will encourage homeowners to work with compostable waste collectors to turn their yard waste and compostable household garbage into useful materials.
CRYSTAL LAKE – Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is reaching out to young women who are juniors or seniors in high school and encouraging them apply for the 18th Annual National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) - National Rifle Association (NRA) Bill of Rights Essay Contest. Each year, NFWL and the NRA join forces to provide six female high school juniors and seniors a $3,000 college scholarship and an all-expense-paid trip to NFWL’s 2015 Annual Conference. The Conference will take place September 11-15 at the Renaissance Hotel in Oklahoma City.

“This scholarship is not merely a great opportunity for young women to earn a college scholarship, it is a great leadership opportunity,” said Wheeler. “At the NFWL conference in September, scholarship winners will have the chance experience a number of things that will help them with public speaking, networking, and converse one-on-one with women lawmakers from across the country. This is a great chance for young women to start on the path to become the leaders of tomorrow, so I hope that many of the talented young women from our area will apply.”

Application Requirements:
Application Packet:
The following materials should be EMAILED as separate documents, to meghan@womenlegislators.org
by the deadline.
1. Completed Essay Contest Application Form
2. Final Essay
3. One (1) Letter of Recommendation from a teacher, advisor, employer, etc.
4. One (1) Letter of Recommendation from an elected woman official in your state.