On Wednesday, June 24, Governor Rauner signed the elementary and secondary education component of the Fiscal Year 2016 State budget, taking our children’s education out of the crossfire in Springfield. While HB 3763 does not increase education spending by as much as the governor’s proposal, it does increase K-12 education funding by $244 million and early childhood education funding by $25 million.

“Education is the most important thing we do as a community. I would have done more for our schoolchildren, but I am taking action today to ensure our teachers are paid and our schools are open and funded,” Governor Rauner said. “I refuse to allow Speaker Madigan and the legislators he controls to hold our schools hostage as part of their plan to protect the political class and force a tax hike on the middle class without real reform.”

House Republicans strongly support the effort to increase education funding. However, we stood in opposition to the original bill because it was rammed though by the Democratic majority, which passed 19 other budget bills that would spend nearly $4 billion more than projected revenue in the next fiscal year. That fact hasn’t changed, and the budget as a whole is unsustainable. The State of Illinois cannot continue to spend more than it takes in from our hardworking taxpayers.
Construction of Illiana toll road could be fatally hampered by key court decision. - The decision, released on Tuesday looked at legal questions surrounding the process used by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation, to grant planning approval for the road. Under federal law, road projects must fulfill a series of environmental mandates, including the filing of a valid environmental impact statement under conditions that include its submission for public comment, before FHA planning permission can be granted.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Alonso found that when FHA planning was taking place to build the proposed $1.3 billion toll road, several steps of this process had been improperly shorted or omitted. The decision raised speculation that Illinois road planners – including planners associated with the Pat Quinn-era Illinois Department of Transportation – may have collaborated to cut corners in the Illiana planning process.
Following the announcement today that Gov. Rauner has vetoed the remaining 19 budget bills passed by partisan vote, State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has said it’s time for the negotiations to reopen and a responsible budget offered. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) has been unwilling to return to the negotiating table as a government shutdown looms on July 1. Rauner said he would not approve the Speaker’s budget that was nearly $4 billion out of balance and today held firm to that stance.

“Today, the Governor held firm to his word that he would not sign a budget that is out of balance and lacks reform,” said Wheeler. “My constituents and I have been committed to reform and I’m happy that the Governor has not given in; standing up for the middle class families that are being drown by an ever increasing tax burden.”
The Wall is a portable commemoration and replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Like the permanent memorial in Washington, D.C., The Wall That Heals carries all 53,253 names incised as the list of the fallen. This summer, the Wall will be installed for public viewings in Jacksonville, LeRoy, Rock Island, and Watseka. The travelling installation’s 2015 summer schedule is covered by Decatur-based WAND-TV.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund moves the 250-foot-long installation to local towns and cities that want to host it for brief periods. As the Wall is delivered to a locality, it is typically escorted by veterans and patriotic Americans. A typical Illinois stop will be in Kiwanis Park in LeRoy from July 23 until July 26. LeRoy is located in rural McLean County, near Bloomington-Normal.
Illinois High School Association (IHSA) governing body announces new rule affecting 2015 football season. - The rule instructs coaches of football programs affiliated with the IHSA to limit full-contact practice, a type of football practice repeatedly associated with concussions and other head trauma. Under the new rule, full-contact practices are limited to three days per week for a total of no more than 90 minutes.

The new rule comes as reports on concussions continue to be published. Reports and news stories describe what many physicians and medical care providers believe to be long-term neurological risks imposed upon young athletes who play contact sports, especially but not limited to football. The new IHSA rules are scheduled to go into effect on the Monday of the first week of the regular high school football season in late August.
The Illinois Auditor General, in office since 1992, is appointed on a nonpartisan basis by the Illinois General Assembly. Bill Holland told the press on Wednesday that he plans to step down in December.

Article VIII of the Illinois Constitution asks the Auditor General and his or her office to conduct the audit of public funds of the State of Illinois. He or she shall make additional reports and investigations as directed by the General Assembly. Investigative work led by Holland’s office into a former program of the Pat Quinn administration, the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, played a role in press coverage of Quinn and his unsuccessful campaign for re-election in 2014.

As news of Holland’s retirement spread, reporters and members of both political parties paid tribute to his office’s investigative work and watchdogging against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The Auditor General’s performance audit of Blagojevich’s Department of Central Management Services (CMS) played a role in starting up further inquiries that culminated in the former governor’s impeachment, conviction, and removal from office.
The Chicago-area-based subsidiary of Zurich Insurance Group has announced that it has formed a partnership with Harper Community College to provide enhanced business training for a small subset of students. The trainees will apprentice at Zurich North America’s operations in conjunction with their business training. Harper Community College already operates established public-private partnership training programs oriented toward manufacturing, health care, and skilled trades, adding to the innovative potential of this program.

Zurich’s apprenticeship program has operated successfully at the worldwide property/casualty firm’s Swiss headquarters, and has been successfully transplanted to the United Kingdom. Zurich believes this will be the first insurance technical-specialist apprenticeship program to be offered in the U.S. Classes are scheduled to start in early 2016.
The State’s chief cash flow manager, Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger, reported on Wednesday, June 10 on the actions the State will be forced to take if no budget is enacted prior to the end of the State’s fiscal year on June 30, 2015.

Successive actions the State will be forced to take include delayed paychecks for State workers, unanswered billings from and no payments to new Medicaid and other State-financed health care providers, no new payments to other State vendors, and no general state aid (GSA) payments from the State Board of Education to school districts. These actions are expected to hit in different ways at different times. For example, the Comptroller reports that the first scheduled payless payday will be July 15. The first GSA payment is due no later than August 10.

Munger pointed out that some monies remain in place to pay essential bills under the “lapse period” law. This law allows leftover money appropriated for use in fiscal year 2015 (FY15) to be spent down during the first 60 days of FY16. However, funds available under this pathway fall far short of the monies required to keep all of the State’s legal commitments, such as paychecks for State workers and GSA payments to schools.
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has said she is glad to see the Divvy bicycle sharing program expanding for college students in Chicago. Last year, Wheeler authored a resolution to explore the creation/expansion of bike sharing programs on college campuses.

“The cost of college is so costly these days that simple cost saving things can be very valuable to students,” said Wheeler. “I’m glad to see bike sharing expanding to more and more colleges in Chicago, and hope more Illinois universities will follow suit.”

Last fall, students at DePaul University, Northwestern University, Columbia College, City Colleges of Chicago, Rush University Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago were offered the opportunity to join Chicago’s Divvy program at a 25% reduced rate. More colleges and universities in Chicago have since joined the program, which has expanded four-fold since its creation. Wheeler is hopeful more institutions across the state will implement this simple cost saving method on their campuses as well.
One of the bills passed by partisan majorities of both houses of the Illinois General Assembly, and then stalled on the order of “Motion to Reconsider,” was SB 1728. This controversial measure would move the presidential library from the Illinois Historic Preservation Authority and make it an independent State agency. The House vote on SB 1728 as amended by the library language was 69-47-0.

However, after the Senate concurred with the House’s Lincoln Library language on May 31, 2015, Senate President John Cullerton filed a “Motion to Reconsider” on the bill. This parliamentary move effectively locked the bill in his desk drawer and left the Library and its approximately 95 headcount employees without closure as of mid-June 2015.
The Illinois Special Olympics kicked off on Friday, June 12, at ISU’s Bloomington-Normal campus in central Illinois. The games continued until Sunday, June 14. Qualified athletes from all over Illinois were invited to compete in aquatics, bocce, gymnastics, powerlifting, soccer, and track and field events. More than 4,100 athletes are scheduled to attend with friends and family.

Athletes qualify for the Illinois Special Olympics through their participation in affiliated events. Track and field athletes qualify through gold-medal-level participation in Special Olympics Area Spring Games, while a variety of sanctioned competitions are used to qualify competitors and teams in aquatics, bocce, gymnastics, powerlifting, and soccer. The games are overseen by Special Olympics Illinois. Deputy Republican Leader Patti Bellock honored Special Children’s Charities and the Special Olympics movement in HR 503, adopted by the House in mid-May.
Illinois program to underwrite prepaid tuition contracts at Illinois colleges and universities faces long-term challenges. The College Illinois program, operated by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), asks contractual depositor/investors to provide money up front for a future college student named by the investor. Funds deposited in College Illinois are used to prepay tuition at an Illinois public college or university for that student. College Illinois is an approved, tax-advantaged investment vehicle under Section 529 of the federal Internal Revenue Code. Section 529 prepaid tuition programs, like College Illinois, should be distinguished from Section 529 college savings plans such as Illinois’ Bright Start program, operated by the Illinois Treasurer’s office.

Popular in the 2000s, state prepaid-tuition programs like College Illinois have come under fiscal challenge in the 2010s due to changes in public perception of governmental probity and falling rates of return on invested capital, even as tuition rates continue to increase. ISAC reported on Tuesday, June 9 that over a two-year period, they have sold too few prepaid tuition contracts to enable persons connected with the program to feel assurance that it can continue to operate indefinitely. During this two-year period 1,084 contracts were sold (438 in 2013-14 and 646 in 2014-15), well short of the 3,000 contract sales required for the program to enjoy sustainability.
Fifth-graders win 'Rising Star Award' - Congratulations to the Lovely LEGO Ladies of Husmann Elementary School in Crystal Lake. In May, Maddie Dennis, Molly Wacaser, Allie Klauser and Sammie Stebbings, all of Husmann Elementary, as well as their friend, and fellow Girl Scout, Jocelyn Nieze of West Lake Christian Academy competed in the LEGOLAND North American Open in California. For their work in programing an autonomous robot the girls earned the Rising Star Award and a spot to compete at the North American Championship. Congratulations to these bright young ladies! See the full story in the Northwest Herald.
With House and Senate Democrats refusing to pass an honest, workable budget, the Illinois budget process has temporarily reached a point of impasse. Future deadlines will place ever-increasing pressure, throughout the summer, upon high-ranking policymakers to enter into serious negotiations.

The State of Illinois is currently finishing up Fiscal Year 2015, which will end on June 30, 2015. The new fiscal year begins on the following day, July 1, 2015. After the end of the month, if any money is left over within any State line item, a two-month “lapse period” within the new fiscal year is created within which remaining FY15 funds can be spent. However, there will be very little lapse-period monies available for use this summer. The State’s first payroll deadline within the new fiscal year will come on July 15, 2015, so there will be intensifying pressure to reach a budget deal prior to this date.

An additional deadline, if required, will come in mid-August. General State Aid (GSA) payments from the State to local school districts are due on August 10 and August 20, 2015. Few, if any, schools within Illinois will open for fall classes without the cash flow represented by these GSA payments.
Compromise police bill passed by both houses. The measure includes provisions intended to sharply increase the number of body cameras (“bodycams”) worn by Illinois police officers as part of their uniforms. SB 1304 responds to concerns raised by Illinoisans and to requests made by police officers and management. House Republicans, especially Representatives Cabello and Anthony, were part of the negotiating team that worked out agreed language for this bipartisan bill.

Police officers and management were interested in language that would allow police not to wear bodycams in specific situations where the devices would be inappropriate or unnecessarily dangerous. Increased training will be provided through the state-funded Police Training Board to inform current and future police officers on the appropriate use of bodycams and videos. As agreed by both houses, SB 1304 will require that a $5 supplement be added to all fines imposed upon convicted defendants in criminal and traffic cases. Monies from this supplemental fine will be granted to police forces seeking assistance in maximizing bodycam accessibility to the members of their force.
SB 836 responds to concerns raised by Illinois firearms owners and law enforcement. It creates a protocol to govern law enforcement or public safety stops of citizens, such as traffic stops, when the citizen is armed with a concealed firearm. The bill authorizes a citizen to move a concealable firearm from a concealed location on his or her person to the trunk of a car or truck, and vice versa. The measure clarifies that obeying the laws contained within the Concealed Carry Act shall protect a citizen from being cited or arrested for unlawful use of a weapon.

SB 836 was supported by many lawmakers of both political parties. State Rep. Ed Sullivan, a chief co-sponsor, was the lead negotiator of SB 836 for the House Republicans. Approval by both houses cleared the pathway to send this measure to the Governor for his signature.
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is offering a program to keep children intellectually engaged over summer vacation. The Summer Reading Club offers children in kindergarten through 5th grade the opportunity to keep their minds active during summer vacation, while also providing the chance to have some fun for participating. Participation brochures are available at Wheeler’s District Office in Crystal Lake.

“As a former teacher, I know how important it is to keep the mind active over summer vacation, so I hope lots of kids will take part in this year’s reading club,” said Wheeler.

To be a member of Rep. Wheeler’s Summer Reading Club, children are asked to read eight books (books over 150 pages count for two) between the time school ends and the program deadline of July 20. Children who achieve this goal will be invited to join their fellow classmates and Wheeler at an ice cream social in August that will offer games and prizes. This program can also be done in conjunction with any program already in existence at a child’s school, or offered through the public library in their community.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and their caucuses passed a budget for the 2016 fiscal year beginning July 1 that is nearly $4 billion in the hole.

This latest broken Madigan-Cullerton budget comes on the heels of a Fiscal Year 2015 Madigan-Cullerton budget that was more than $1.5 billion out-of-balance when it was passed. Governor Rauner and House Republicans worked diligently to eliminate the Democrats’ $1.5 billion budget deficit without raising taxes, and the State is now projected to end the year with a balanced budget.

With the upcoming Madigan-Cullerton budget deficit more than double that of last year, a mid-year solution is not a possibility this time. The Rauner Administration must immediately begin taking steps to manage state spending. While the Administration is committed to managing the Madigan-Cullerton budget responsibly, because their budget includes no reforms, the options available to the Administration are limited.
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is seeking to raise awareness about the alarmingly high rate of suicide among female military veterans. A recently released, multi-year study conducted in 23 states between 2000 and 2010 found that female military veterans are six-times more likely to commit suicide than non-veteran women.

“The rates are astonishing and the research shows this isn’t a new phenomenon,” said Wheeler. “This has been a reality for decades, but it has only recently been realized how much higher the suicide rate among women veterans actually is. We can no longer sit back, we need to be proactive about ensuring the public is aware of the issue and work together as a community to curb its impact.”

Wheeler has been active on the issue since she was elected. In 2013, one of her first major pieces of legislation was to expand the efforts of the Illinois Discharged Servicemember Task Force to address issues such as outreach and health care for female veterans following military service.
Placing telemarketing calls to wireless phones is - and always has been - illegal in most cases.

Why the confusion about telemarketing to wireless phones?

Consumers report receiving emails saying they'll soon begin receive telemarketing calls on their wireless phones. The confusion seems to stem from discussions in the wireless phone industry about establishing a wireless 411 phone directory, much like your traditional (wired) 411 phone directory. A number of email campaigns seem to suggest that if your wireless telephone number is listed in a wireless 411 directory, it will be available to telemarketers, and you will start to receive sales calls. In addition, some of these email campaigns suggest that there is a separate do-not-call "cell phone registry," which you must call to have your wireless phone number covered by the do-not-call rules. This information is inaccurate.
House Republicans help pass bill to reduce opioid dependency. The bill, HB 1, includes both penalty enhancements and a new commitment to education and rehabilitation. It contains numerous provisions intended to discourage and prevent patients from misusing opioid prescriptions and developing a dependence upon these dangerous drugs. Dispensing pharmacies would be forbidding from selling a vial of opioids containing more than a 10-day supply. One key feature of the bill contains a process to make Narcan, a one-time-use opioid antagonist, available to all Illinois first responders (police, fire, EMT) for administration to persons in an opioid overdose emergency.

HB 1 contains expanded commitments to drug courts, diversion pathways for nonviolent drug offenders, mandatory drug treatment, and other pathways intended to reduce addiction and recidivism. The May 27 House vote on HB 1 was 114-0-0, sending the measure to the Senate for final action.
House Republicans, Governor call for bipartisan maps. U.S. voters vote for legislators – members of Congress and state legislators – who represent “districts” that are drawn on maps to contain equal numbers of people counted by census. At the time the U.S. Constitution was adopted, maps were drawn by hand. It was presumed that legislative districts would be compact or follow the boundary-lines of existing communities, or both.

In recent years, however, the invention of demographic software has made it possible for computers to draw maps that ruthlessly cross existing lines, sprawl across many different jurisdictions and virtually certain to elect politicians from one political party. Here in Illinois, two “Democratic maps” drawn in 2001 and redrawn in 2011 have led to fourteen straight years of uninterrupted control by the Chicago-based political party over both chambers of the state legislature in Springfield.

In November 2014, a strong margin of voters elected Republican Bruce Rauner to be Governor of Illinois, yet because of politically-drawn legislative maps, Democrats retained veto-proof supermajorities in both the Illinois House and Senate.
Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is reaching out to young women who are juniors or seniors in high school and reminding/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.

The scholarship is not merely a great opportunity for young women to earn a college scholarship, it is a great leadership opportunity. 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.
Rauner, House Republicans introduce Illinois Turnaround agenda. Key issue areas covered by the Governor’s agenda include measures to enact or ratify term limits for elected officials, legislative map reform, a property tax freeze, tort reform, workers’ compensation reform, and municipal bankruptcy reform.

Republican Leader Jim Durkin was the lead sponsor of five Illinois Turnaround measures in the Illinois House, with tort reform filed as HB 4222, workers’ compensation reform filed as HB 4223, the property tax freeze filed as HB 4224, term limits filed as HJRCA 39, and redistricting reform filed as HJRCA 40.
House and Senate Democrats introduced a series of spending bills for FY16 (starting July 1, 2015) that spends more than $4 billion what nonpartisan revenue estimates expect the state to bring in. Ignoring their constitutional responsibility to enact a balanced budget, the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate rammed through spending bills they readily admit they cannot pay for, while at the same time walking away from the reform negotiations Governor Rauner has called for.

Illinois is estimated to bring in $32 billion next year, and the Democrats proposed budget would spend over $36 billion. The proposed spending is 12% higher than projected revenue and would push the state’s backlog of bills to over $10 billion, equaling 30% of our total revenue. The Democrats budget gives false hope to those who rely on state services and is an outright lie to schools, service providers and the state’s most vulnerable.
Madigan keeps session open during summer; will there be any reform?

Sunday, May 31, traditionally the final day of the spring legislative session ended on an anti-climactic tone. After walking away from the negotiating table because of their unwillingness to discuss reforms to the budgeting and taxing process in Springfield, Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton told lawmakers they would be in session all summer. Madigan told House members they would not receive mileage or per diem reimbursement, but the extension of session will still cost taxpayers heavily as the demands of housing lawmakers and operating the capitol will be costly. Lawmakers will be back in Springfield on Thursday, June 4 to continue working toward a budget deal that meets with constitutional requirements for a balanced budget.