191 new laws take effect January 1, 2017. Here is a preview of 26 new laws that may be of interest to Illinoisans:

Social media right to privacy
Public Act 99-610, House Bill 4999
Amends the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act to make it illegal for an employer or prospective employer to request or require an employee or applicant to access a personal online account (such as Facebook) in the presence of the employer. It is also illegal to request or require that an employee or applicant invite the employer to join a group affiliated with any personal online account of the employee, or applicant, or join an online account established by the employer.

Employee Sick Leave Act
Public Act 99-841, House Bill 6162
Under the new law, employees may now use personal sick leave benefits for purposes dealing with a child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent or step parent. The employee can use such time as may be necessary on the same terms that employee would use the time for their own illness or injury.
Attendance at the Springfield, Illinois 2016 State Fair dropped by more than 13% on a year-to-year basis. While severe weather events – heading by a flood-level cloudburst on the night of a key scheduled musical concert – were blamed for part of the attendance shortfall the overall numbers indicated growing problems with bringing in fair-going customers and exhibitors this year. Springfield fair attendance fell from 411,547 in 2015 to 357,409 in 2016.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture, which operates the Illinois State Fair, has begun an 80,000-recipient survey exercise. A wide variety of selected Fair attendees are being sent online questionnaires intended to gather data about their State Fair visit. Questions include requests for data on potentially controversial subjects, such as the recent hike in State Fair admission ticket prices. People who get the survey will be asked to rate various facets of the State Fair experience, including exhibits, entertainment, and food. Respondents will also be asked to help the State Fair understand how many miles people travelled to attend the Fair, how many tickets were bought by a household, and whether a ticketholder also visited the Fair on a different day.
Under the Constitution of Illinois, persons negatively affected by criminal convictions (including, but not limited to, prisoners in State prisons) have the right to petition the Governor of Illinois for clemency. Nothing in the Constitution says that the Governor has to respond at once, though, and previous Governors had let a backlog of more than 2,300 clemency petitions build up in the Office of the Governor without final action.

When he took office in January 2015, newly-elected Governor Bruce Rauner pledged to work with his staff to eliminate this massive backlog of clemency requests. Upon digging into the pile, at least one unanswered request was found that had been filed thirteen years earlier, in 2003. Most of the clemency requests were standard pleas that a prisoner or convicted felon should not be punished. Although all of the 2,300 petitions were read, Governor Rauner granted pardons in less than 4% of the cases. Approximately 80 pardons were handed out. The backlog has now been eliminated, which will enable new requests to be read and acted on in a timely manner.
Do you need help paying your mortgage? Have you experienced a drop in household income? If so, you may qualify for up to $35,000 in federal assistance at no cost to you.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service - CCCS of Northern Illinois, Inc. is a non-profit service that has helped save over 2,000 homeowners in the area and has again been chosen to sponsor the Illinois Hardest Hit program. Thousands of Illinois homeowners have successfully kept their home through this federally funded program administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
The Champaign-Urbana geological think tank will study and develop technologies to enable the continued burning of fossil fuels in Illinois and around the world. Concerns have been raised about the emission of carbon dioxide when oil, gas, coal, and other fuels are burned, but geologists have long known that it is possible to gather carbon dioxide generated by fixed sources of energy (such as power plants) and inject them deep into the earth. The technology, called carbon “sequestration,” could be used to make it more attractive to burn coal and other fossil fuels for future energy.

The Illinois State Geological Survey has been asked to evaluate the feasibility of injecting more than 50 million metric tons of CO² into geological strata deep under Illinois. The study will build on previous core drillings and other empirical research that shows that much of central and southern Illinois lies on top of beds of impermeable shale. Hypothetically, carbon dioxide could be injected into or beneath the shale and would never come back to the earth’s surface.
With the “stopgap” six-month budget for the first half of FY17 scheduled to expire on December 31, pressure is being placed on key Illinois officials to develop a budget agreement. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Governor Bruce Rauner, and other leaders were meeting almost daily in Chicago. Key issues include cash flow for State spending areas covered in the “stopgap” budget. Renewed appropriations are required if these areas are to get funding in January 2017 and following months. However, no agreement has yet been reached.
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has named State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) a Champion of Free Enterprise. The Champion of Free Enterprise Award is given biennially to recognize Illinois lawmakers who support legislation that promotes free enterprise in Illinois to help the state foster a more competitive economic environment. In order to be eligible for the award, a lawmaker must receive an 85% positive voting record under the Illinois Chamber of Commerce legislative ratings – Wheeler received a 100% rating for 2015-2016.
SB 2814, which parallels a recent law passed in New York State, contains a cross-subsidization program for electric markets across Illinois to support the continued operations of two nuclear power plants in Clinton and Cordova, Illinois (“Quad Cities”). Due to ongoing operating losses, Exelon had previously announced plans to close the Clinton plant in 2017 and the Quad Cities plant in 2018. One underlying theme of the legislation is the preservation of important carbon-free generating capacity for Illinois to meet power demands in the future.

As a result of passage of the Future Energy Jobs Bill, 1,500 direct jobs were saved at the Clinton and Quad Cities plants, with a total of more than 4,000 jobs impacted. In addition to the jobs saved, keeping Illinois’ nuclear plants in operation will prevent large increases in energy prices. Closure of the plants would have had a detrimental effect on electric rates, on the reliability and capacity of the grid, and on jobs and economic activity. The Illinois Commerce Commission had studied the effects of nuclear plant closures and in almost every scenario, rates would increase across the state. A report released in November by leading Illinois business organizations, including the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA), the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, indicated that preserving the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants will save Illinois businesses and consumers over $3 billion in electricity costs over the next ten years.
Wheeler to Sponsor Crystal Lake Art Show that Honors Women in Government
I would like to extend an invitation for everyone to attend an upcoming art show at Crystal Lake’s historic Dole Mansion scheduled for Friday, November 4 from 5:00-8:00 PM. The theme of this exhibit is “100 Years of Women in Government,” and those who attend will be able to view a large collection of featured art which focuses on the emergence of strong women in government roles. People will also have an opportunity to mingle with artists and purchase some of the original pieces of work. A suggested $5 donation will be collected at the door, and those proceeds will support the historic preservation of the Dole Mansion and Lakeside Legacy programs. I hope to see a large crowd at this worthwhile event!

MCC Jobs Fair Draws Large Crowd
Last week Senator Althoff and I partnered with some key McHenry County agencies to host a very successful Jobs Fair that was held at McHenry County College (MCC) on October 21. In addition to MCC, we partnered with the McHenry County Workforce Network and the County’s Economic Development Corporation for the 10:00 AM-1:00 PM event. More than 80 area employers accepted applications and discussed job openings for temporary, part-time and full-time employment opportunities with more than 200 job seekers who attended the fair. Unemployment rates remain unacceptably high in Illinois and we need to be doing everything we can to put people back to work. By bringing together employers who are actively looking to hire good employees, those who attended the jobs fair were able to maximize the efficiency of their job search. Thanks to all who attended, staffed booths and helped make this event such a great success.

Wheeler Serves as “Principal for a Day” at Local Elementary School
This month I had an opportunity to step into the shoes of a school principal and experience a day in the life of a top school administrator. I had the pleasure of spending a day at Community Consolidated School District 46’s Avon Center School in Round Lake Beach, where I was able to connect with students and teachers from a variety of grade levels. The Principal for a Day program is a statewide initiative of the Illinois Principals Association, and the goal of the program is to provide lawmakers with an opportunity to observe, interact and serve for a day at a school within their specific legislative district. It fosters collaboration between legislators and schools and gives us a up-close look at the successes and challenges in our local public schools. Thank you to Avon’s Principal Chris Wolk for the hospitality, and to all of the students and teachers for making my visit a wonderful experience.

New Illinois Competitive Council Review of Agency Rules/Regulations Should Find Millions in Savings for Illinoisans by Cutting Through Red Tape
Last week Governor Bruce Rauner announced a comprehensive plan to promote economic growth and job creation by cutting the red tape in Illinois. He signed Executive Order 16-13 to review all agency rules and regulations by the newly-created Illinois Competitiveness Council. The Illinois Competitiveness Council will be comprised of a representative of each of Illinois’ regulatory state agencies. Its goal is to save Illinoisans at least $250 million in direct license fee costs over the next decade, and save Illinois taxpayers and business owners at least 4 million pages in paperwork. It will work to ensure current regulations are up to date and relevant to today’s industries and practices; ensure the language in rules are easy to understand; reduce the amount of unduly burdensome requirements on businesses, social service providers, and citizens through both time and cost; and ensure there is a clear need for the regulation.

In addition, the Illinois Competitiveness Council will look for recommendations to improve Illinois’ licensing environment to promote job growth and job creation. Currently, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) has more than a million active licenses in more than 200 license categories, however for nearly a third, IDFPR has issued fewer than 100 licenses. The growth of these licenses has increased 184 percent in the last 20 years.

Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado, and Massachusetts have all successfully reviewed their rules and cut red tape to give their citizens a more competitive advantage over Illinois citizens. Burdensome and unnecessary regulations, policies and licensing requirements disproportionately impact small businesses, particularly minority-owned businesses.

In order to have the greatest impact, the Illinois Competitiveness Council is seeking input from the public on which rules and regulations are the biggest hindrance to people and businesses. Anyone can submit feedback to cut the red tape at www.illinois.gov/cut.

Teal Pumpkin Project Allows Kids with Food Allergies to Enjoy Trick-or-Treating Fun
For households that participate in trick-or-treating activities, I wanted to bring your attention to a very worthwhile initiative called the Teal Pumpkin Project. Kids with food allergies are often left out of trick-or-treating fun since most candy is off limits to them. The Teal Pumpkin Project helps make sure all children will come home on Halloween night with something they can enjoy. It just takes one simple act: offering non-food treats, such as glow sticks or small toys, as an alternative to candy.

If you wish to participate, please print out the sign below and tape it to your door. This will alert families with children who have food allergies that this is a safe trick-or-treating home.

· Teal Pumpkin

Last year, households from all 50 states and 14 countries participated. This is a worldwide movement to create a safer, happier Halloween for all trick-or-treaters.

Click here to learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project, and click here for a list of local Halloween events and attractions.

Industry Hotline Offers Insurance Assistance
The Illinois Insurance Hotline is a free and valuable resource available to help Illinois residents make informed decisions about insurance-related issues. The Hotline is a non-profit industry-sponsored outreach that can answer basic questions, provide educational materials and offer direction for more intricate questions about property, casualty, life or health insurance. Residents can reach the Hotline by phone or email for guidance on a wide range of topics, including company contact numbers, financial ratings, complaint records, state mandates, options following a cancellation or non-renewal, the claim settlement process and more. You can contact the Illinois Insurance Hotline by phone at 1-800-444-3338, or by email at insurancehotline@illinoisinsurance.org. The Hotline is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM.
For households that participate in trick-or-treating activities, I wanted to bring your attention to a very worthwhile initiative called the Teal Pumpkin Project.

Kids with food allergies are often left out of trick-or-treating fun since most candy is off limits to them. The Teal Pumpkin Project helps make sure all children will come home on Halloween night with something they can enjoy. It just takes one simple act: offering non-food treats, such as glow sticks or small toys, as an alternative to candy.

If you wish to participate, please print out the sign below and tape it to your door. This will alert families with children who have food allergies that this is a safe trick-or-treating home.

· Teal Pumpkin

Last year, households from all 50 states and 14 countries participated. This is a worldwide movement to create a safer, happier Halloween for all trick-or-treaters.

Click here to learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project.
The sun was shining as a boat full of environmentalists toured the Pistakee Lake Watershed on the Chain O'Lakes. The boat tour was a recap of issues studied through a grant received by Lake County Storm Water Management and the Fox Waterway Agency. The group had been meeting for months looking at the impacts occurring to water quality on the Chain O'Lakes. The group is hoping to receive Federal 319 grant money to provide solutions to improve water quality.

The Pistakee Lake Watershed Tour reviewed shoreline protection situations which impact aquatic plant life. Participants also discussed port of entries within the watershed which cause pollution impacting water clarity. Discussion took place about the importance of wetlands and it was interesting to find out that one acre of wetland equals one million gallons of water. There is great concern about the dwindling acreage of functional wetlands within the Chain O'Lakes area and the sedimentation loads occurring on Grass Lake, which at one time was over 100 feet deep according to the Fox Waterway Agency.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division was encouraged by a new group that was formed recently in Wisconsin called the Sewer Pac, which will be reviewing negative impacts within the Fox River Watershed in Wisconsin which flows directly through the Chain O'Lakes here in Illinois. According Wayne Blake, Chairman of the Fox Waterway Agency, between 50,000 and 70,000 cubic yards of sedimentation is entering the Chain O'Lakes yearly, with a large percentage of that coming from agricultural lands in Wisconsin.

The Pistakee Lake Watershed group toured the lotus beds which were successfully re-established by the Fox Waterway over 20 years ago. After the lotus plants are established it takes seven years for the seeds to germinate to produce new plants. The lotus beds originally grew in this area back in the late 1800's but were killed off from a severe winter. The lotus beds were a large tourism draw because Grass Lake was only one of three areas world-wide where the lotus beds grew. The flowers were cultivated to make fragrant perfume which was sold by local businesses in the early 1900's.

The Pistakee Lake Watershed Group also toured the geo-tube-created island off of Grass Lake Channel. The island was created over 20 years ago, and was made with dredged material. It is a habitat for many endangered species, including the pelicans who nest there when looking for shade. Officials for the Fox Waterway are still looking into creating and recreating islands to put the silt sedimentations back where it came from and creating wetlands which provide a habitat for wildlife. The Fox Waterway Agency also discussed alternatives for dredging containment sites.
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is one of three House Republicans who will serve on a newly-created Human Trafficking Task Force in Illinois.

The bipartisan and bicameral task force, created through Public Act 99-0864, will consist of 12 members of the General Assembly, a representative from the Chicago Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and the Director of the State Police or a designee of the Director’s choosing. The group will conduct a study on the human trafficking problem in Illinois and will hold hearings to help develop a state plan to address the growing issue.

“Sadly, Chicago has emerged as a national hub for human trafficking, and incidents of these crimes have also been reported in the suburbs and in downstate Illinois,” Wheeler said. “The National Human Trafficking Resource Center recorded 94 human trafficking cases in Illinois this year through the end of June, and that number is up significantly from cases reported in Illinois last year. We must take bold steps to stop these predators and protect Illinoisans.”

Members of the task force will serve without compensation, and will submit their findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and to Governor Rauner before June 30 of 2017.

“Human trafficking is a very real problem in Illinois and across the United States,” said Wheeler. “I look forward to having in a role in the creation of a statewide plan to address this growing form of abuse.”
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has been named a “Guardian of Small Business” in recognition of votes taken in Springfield during 2015-2016. In an independent review of her voting record, Wheeler scored a perfect 100%.

The award, given every two years by the non-partisan National Federation of Independent Business/Illinois (NFIB), judged lawmakers on their votes on 11 key bills during the 99th General Assembly. The bills included: HB 6162, SB 2964, HB 3887, HB 1285, SB 162, HB 1287, SB 2933, HB 4036, SB 11, HB 5576 and HJRCA 26. Lawmakers who received an 80% or higher rating received the award.

According to Kim Clark Maisch, State Director of NFIB/Illinois, Wheeler showed unwavering support of small business during the 99th General Assembly. “Small business is an extremely important part of Illinois' economic engine, and Representative Barbara Wheeler’s 100% voting record with the NFIB demonstrates her commitment to helping small businesses succeed in a very tough environment,” she said. “Small businesses are our primary job creators, and Representative Wheeler stood up on behalf of these businesses time and time again in her representation of Illinois’ 64th District.”

Wheeler said it was an honor to be recognized for her support of the business community. “There were several bills during this General Assembly that represented an attack on small business owners in Illinois, and as lawmakers who recognize the importance of small business, it was our responsibility to fight these anti-business initiatives,” said Wheeler. “Small business owners are the people who have the power to improve our economy and we need to do everything we can to support them.”

NFIB/Illinois includes over 11,000 small business members from across the state. A link to a summary of the 11 key business bills and an overall tally and ranking of all Illinois State Representatives and Senators can be found at: http://www.nfib.com/pdfs/Illinois-Voting-Record.pdf.
Governor Nears Completion of 2016 Bill Signings
The General Assembly passed 443 bills in the first half of calendar year 2016, and more than 90% of these bills have now been signed into law. Of the forty bills vetoed by Governor Bruce Rauner, 30 are total vetoes and ten are amendatory vetoes. The Constitution of Illinois gives the General Assembly one shot at accepting the Governor’s amendatory vetoes or overriding his amendatory and/or total vetoes. Acceptance of an amendatory veto requires a simple majority in both houses, while overriding a Governor’s veto requires a three-fifths majority in both houses. Actions on vetoes are a traditional focus of the General Assembly’s fall veto session. The veto session will be held on the third and fifth weeks of November, straddling Thanksgiving. 

McHenry County Workforce Center Offers Programs and Assistance to Employers and Job Seekers
Last week a member of my staff attended an open house at the McHenry County Workforce Center in Woodstock as part of “Workforce Development Week” in McHenry County. Guests at the open house were able to tour the facility and learn about the variety of programs and services that are available to both employers and job seekers. In addition to their program offerings, the Workforce Center offers a Young Adult Internship Program that caters to individuals between the ages of 14-24, where opportunities for paid internships training and certifications are available. Guests at the event also learned about the McHenry County College Shah Center, which provides services to more than 600 businesses and 9,000 people each year. Those services range from one-on-one counseling for entrepreneurs to custom, on-site employee training classes. The McHenry County Workforce Center is a gem in our community. To learn more about this useful agency and the assistance they can provide, please visit www.mchenrycountyworkforce.com or call them at (815) 338-7100. You can learn more about the Shah Center programs at www.shahcenter.mchenry.edu or by calling (815) 479-7571.

Motorists Urged to be Aware of Sharp Penalties for Passing a Stopped School Bus
With the new school year underway for most Illinois school districts, school buses are once again a familiar sight in morning and afternoon hours. Significant penalties exist in law for the act of passing a stopped school bus with flashing lights and extended stop-sign arm. Traffic must remain stopped until the lights have stopped flashing and the stop-sign arm withdrawn. In addition to fines imposed by the local court, the Secretary of State is instructed by law to suspend, for three months, the driving privileges of a licensed driver who violates this law. A Secretary of State hearing officer may, but is not required to, grant restricted-driving privileges to a driver whose license is under suspension for this offense. These penalties apply to traffic going in both directions on any road narrower than four lanes. On a four-lane road with at least two lanes of traffic moving in the opposite direction to the bus, only motorists going with the bus are required to stop. 

New Concussion Guidelines Affect Coaches and Players in Contact Sports
The new guidelines, adopted by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) according to State law, are aimed at reducing the frequency of concussions in contact sports. One key feature of the new guidelines is a requirement that student-athletes be tested and monitored during contact-sports activities. The oversight activities are meant to diagnose concussion events as fast as possible.

The guidelines also require that, once a student-athlete is found to have sustained a concussion or suspected concussion, they must undergo further monitoring and testing prior to being asked to resume their studies or authorized to return to a playing field. Once diagnosed, they will not be able to play again until a doctor has granted explicit permission for them to do so. The new concussion guidelines will be enforced, in each school, by the concussion oversight teams that each Illinois school that plays sports is now required to have. The guidelines followed passage of the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, a 2015 law that asked the IHSA, licensed Illinois athletic trainers, and other professionals and educators to come together to develop a new program for reduction of sports concussions starting in the 2016-17 school year.

LIHEAP to Accept Applications for Low Income Energy Assistance Program
The state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will begin accepting applications for winter heating assistance for seniors and people with disabilities on September 1. LIHEAP and the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) program are funded as part of the stopgap funding plan signed into law by Governor Rauner. LIHEAP is a state and federally funded energy assistance program for low-income families, in which heating bill payments are made on behalf of households. Applications are processed through a network of 35 local administering agencies around the state. These agencies will accept applications on a first-come, first-served basis. Residents must bring all required documentation when applying for assistance, including: 
  • Proof of gross income from all household members for the 30-day income period beginning with the date of the application. 
  • A copy of their current heat and electric bills issued within the last 30 days (if they pay for their energy directly). 
  • A copy of their rental agreement (if they are renting) showing that utilities are included, the monthly rental amount and landlord contact information. 
  • Proof of Social Security numbers for all household members. 
  • Proof that their household received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD); or other benefits, such as Medical Eligibility or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), if receiving assistance from the Illinois Department of Human Services. 
A single-person household can qualify with a monthly income of up to $1,485; a two-person household up to $2,003; a family of three can earn up to $2,520; and a family of four can earn up to $3,038. For a complete listing of LIHEAP’s local administering agencies and additional information about the program, go to www.liheapIllinois.com, or call the energy assistance toll-free hotline at (877) 411-WARM.

FBI Says Hackers, Possibly from Russia, Sought Entry into Illinois Election Databases
Access from abroad was to databases operated by the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) to monitor and enforce Illinois election law and election results. The foreign incursion included the possible theft of voter-identification data, including parts of voter Social Security numbers, from as many as 90,000 Illinois voters. The ISBE currently does not believe the access changed any of the data within the database or moved the dials on any of the ways the Board tries to monitor and enforce election law. For example, the Election Code requires disclosure of a wide variety of contributions to campaign committees and the ISBE keeps databases of these disclosures. The foreign hacks were made public by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Division on Monday, August 29. The office of the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security states that the Secretary has contacted state election officials, presumably including Illinois officials, to offer help in building or reinforcing “firewalls” around state election commission data.

Moody’s Investors Service Estimates that Illinois’ Bill Backlog Could Grow to $14 Billion
The bill backlog, for Illinois and its creditors, is the volume of monies represented by bills presented to Illinois and not yet paid. Major creditors include providers of health-care services, providers of services such as electricity to state offices, and providers of supplies such as food and clothing to state prisons. The current bill backlog is tracked and frequently updated by the office of Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger. This week, the backlog of unpaid bills hovered above $8 billion.

In a report published Wednesday, August 31, Moody’s analyzed signs that this bill backlog could soon grow even further in size. Chief among these reasons is the lack of a balanced State budget. The “stopgap” spending plan enacted by the General Assembly in June 2016 did not contain revenues to match the appropriated expenditures, and did not provide for many of the expenditures that the State is legally required under existing law to spend before the end of fiscal year 2017 (ends June 30, 2017).

A “structural deficit” exists when growing expenditure mandates, particularly the costs of medical care and pubic-sector worker pensions, are not matched by commensurate growth in any existing State tax or revenue stream; neither existing rates of income taxes, nor sales taxes, nor gambling taxes, nor any combination of the above will raise the required sums of money. Moody’s believes that, absent additional action to balance the budget, by the end of FY17 the State will be $14 billion or more in the red. The difference between the State’s current $8 billion in past-due bills and Moody’s projection of $14 billion at fiscal year’s end reflects the current $6 billion/year structural deficit being faced by Illinois.

Moody’s report included a warning that, absent action by the General Assembly to balance the budget as required by the Constitution, the firm may be forced to further lower the State’s already tottering credit rating. Currently rated at Baa2 by Moody’s, Illinois’ general obligation debt now hovers at only two steps above “junk bond” levels. In terms of its credit rating, Illinois is currently the lowest-ranked among the 50 states.

Twelve Human Service Agencies Discussing Medicaid Revamp
One of the causes of Illinois’ budget crisis is the compounding cost of the State’s Medicaid program. Medicaid, the family of programs that provides reimbursements for medical treatments provided to many persons with challenged personal or income standing, spends billions of dollars every year. It is an “entitlement” program, which means that the General Assembly cannot easily enact legislation to cut the cost of the program. Most of its beneficiaries have a right, under federal law, to many of the services that the Illinois Medicaid program provides to them.

Some, although by no means all, of the costs of Illinois Medicaid are covered by the federal government. One of the features identified by the Rauner administration are growing gaps between what Illinois could apply for in Medicaid aid and the reimbursements in fact received by the State. Next week, the Rauner administration will hold hearings in Springfield and Chicago on an interdepartmental proposal to close some of these gaps. Advocates believe that adoption of the Rauner plan could create standing for Illinois to apply for $2.7 billion in additional federal Medicaid funds over a five-year period. Features of the proposal include improved housing services for persons whose health concerns are deemed to put them at risk for becoming homeless and pre-release services for prisoners.

Implementation of the Rauner proposal will require proof of ongoing cooperation between many different state agencies. In many cases, the agencies will have to standardize their database software in order to share client data on a frictionless basis. The Rauner administration’s ongoing reorganization of Illinois’ data management capabilities is an integral part of this proposal. The General Assembly will, in many cases, have to sign off on individual parts of the proposal. At next week’s hearings on September 8 and 9, twelve separate State agencies will be called on to provide public testimony on their readiness to implement this proposal.
Governor Signs Key Wheeler Bills into Law
During the summer months, the Governor takes action on the hundreds of bills that were approved during the previous spring legislative session. I was successful this year in passing some very good legislation that will have a positive impact on the people of the 64th Legislative District. A few of those bills that were recently signed into law include:
  • HB 5584 (now Public Act 99-0783): This is a consolidation bill that has the potential to save local taxpayers thousands of dollars in property taxes by allowing two Lake County Sanitary Districts to have their duties and obligations absorbed into Lake County operations. Lake County already performs these duties in many areas and has the infrastructure in place to take over the sanitary district duties of these two municipalities at a lower cost to taxpayers.
  • HB 5017 (now Public Act 99-0835): This important legislation allows juveniles under the age of 18 to expunge their records for non-violent offenses in certain circumstances. Criminal records can follow an individual for years past the date of a crime and well past the period of rehabilitation. For juveniles, who often make poor choices before their impulse control mechanisms are fully developed, the long-range consequences can affect their ability to become productive adults. By allowing juveniles to have records of non-violent offenses erased after they have made restitution for their crime, we are truly allowing them to start with a clean slate and make the most of their adult lives.
  • HB 4330 (now Public Act 99-0600): This new law addresses the out-of-control costs of higher education by offering high school students an opportunity to earn college credit if they show high proficiency in a foreign language. Those illustrating the proficiency will be awarded a State Seal of Biliteracy. Students who earn a score of “intermediate high” or better on a State Seal of Biliteracy test will be deemed as having met the foreign language admission requirements at any public community college or university in Illinois and will receive credit for the equivalent college-level courses. According to data from CollegCalc.org, which compares and calculates college costs across the country, using the State Seal of Biliteracy to earn credit for one foreign language class at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign would have saved a student $5,553 during the 2014-2015 academic year. 
Tourists Spent $37 Billion in Illinois in 2015
The new numbers come from the Illinois Office of Tourism, which monitors visitor spending in Illinois as a way of gauging a return on investments for the money from hotel/motel taxes spent to promote Illinois to out-of-staters. Estimated expenditures by tourists in Illinois were $37 billion in 2015, up an inflation-beating 2.6% from 2014.

According to the Office of Tourism, an arm of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, tourism generated an estimated 10,000 new Illinois jobs in 2015. Job creation is featured in the Office of Tourism’s “Illinois Made” campaign for 2016, a multimedia promotion that centers on the attractive opportunities for visitors to buy goods and services produced by Illinois craftspeople and small businesses.

Governor Signs Bills Honoring Gold Star Families, Increasing Services to Illinois Veterans
Governor Bruce Rauner recently took action on several bills as part of Veterans Day at the 2016 Illinois State Fair. The bills strengthen Illinois’ commitment to our veterans and their families by providing needed assistance and honor to those who have sacrificed so much for our country and our state.

Two of the bills support the families of our Illinois veterans. HB 4389, sponsored by Rep. Steven Andersson, designates the day after Gold Star Mother’s Day as Gold Star Family Day to be observed throughout Illinois as a day to honor and commemorate the families of men and women who gave their lives while serving with the armed forces of the United States.

HB 4432, sponsored by Rep. Don Moffitt, allows a child in any grades 6 through 12 to be absent from a public school for the purpose of sounding “Taps” at a military honor funeral held in Illinois for a deceased veteran. Read more about HB 4389 and HB 4432.

HB 4627, sponsored by Rep. Mike Tryon, allows veterans to begin their college education upon discharge regardless of how the calendar year lines up. Read more about HB 4627.

HB 4344, sponsored by Rep. Mark Batinick, creates the Heroes Way Designation Program Act. It is a way to honor servicemembers who were killed in action by allowing a relative to apply to have an honorary sign with the name of the servicemember erected along designated Illinois roads.

Summer Readers from District 64 Enjoy Ice Cream Social
As a former school teacher, I recognize the importance of reading in people’s everyday lives. Each summer, in an effort to keep children reading, I sponsor a Summer Reading Club for elementary aged children in District 64. Readers who reach a goal of finishing at least eight books over the summer were invited to an ice cream social that was held last week in McHenry at the Baskin Robins/Dunkin Donuts store. Store manager Naimesh Upadhyaya was our gracious host at the event. Senator Pamela Althoff of McHenry was also able to attend the event and talk with the readers about their new favorite books. As kids settle into their new school year, I hope their love of reading continues to grow!

Current Rate of Traffic Deaths show Fatalities Mounting to Projected Eight-Year High in 2016
Based on current statistical trends, more than 1,000 people will be killed on Illinois roads and highways in 2016. The dismal number is attributed by traffic experts to higher speeds, with speed limits up to 70 mph on many sections of Illinois limited-access highways. An increase in the total number of Illinois miles driven and a larger number of younger drivers are also blamed.

The 1,000-death projection is based upon the 629 Illinois traffic deaths that had been logged as of Friday, August 12 by the National Safety Council, a private-sector entity that works with local law enforcement and health providers to track accidents and injuries nationwide, including motor vehicle incidents. The Council has, in the past, played a key role in injury-reducing changes to motor vehicle law, including mandatory child restraints and a standardized law to identify and sanction persons who drive under the influence.

New Private Foundation will Cooperate with State of Illinois to Preserve Threatened Fairgrounds
A private foundation has been created to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure that supports Illinois’ largest summer gathering, the Illinois State Fair. With an estimated $180 million in deferred maintenance costs, the more than 190 buildings of the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair in Southern Illinois’ DuQuoin will require massive rebuilding to maintain a safe and secure fairgoing experience. Electrical, paint, plumbing, roofing, and structural repairs must be done on buildings that were built as long ago as 1892.

Governor Bruce Rauner led the push to create the new Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation. Established by private-sector leaders of the agricultural community, the foundation will raise private funding and coordinate the revitalization and improvement of both fairgrounds. It is expected that large donors may receive recognition for their generosity in the form of sponsorship opportunities that will be seen by the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the Fairs and their grounds. Creation of the Foundation was the culmination of a push to save the State Fairgrounds led by Rep. Tim Butler and by former Rep. Raymond Poe, both of Springfield. Former Rep. Poe is currently the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the State agency with overall responsibility over the State fairgrounds and state fair infrastructure.
Legislation sponsored by State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) that allows juveniles to have court records for non-violent offences expunged was signed into law Friday by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Through HB 5017, juveniles may petition the court at any time for expungement of law enforcement records and juvenile court records for non-violent offenses at any point after the termination of all court proceedings relating to the incident. “Criminal records can follow an individual for years past the date of a crime and well past the period of rehabilitation,” said Wheeler. “The same is true for juvenile offenders, who often make a poor choice before their impulse control mechanisms are fully developed. This new law allows juveniles to truly start with a clean slate after making reparations for their non-violent crimes.”

According to Wheeler, the need for the bill was brought to her attention by a 15-year-old from District 64 who was concerned that a few bad decisions that landed him in police custody would damage his chances of getting into college and having a good future. The previous law only allowed for expungement in rare cases, or after the individual turns 21 years old.

“All kids make mistakes; they all make occasional bad choices,” said Wheeler. “If society is going to hold those bad choices over juveniles’ heads as they attempt to build a successful future for themselves, we are doing nothing to improve society or to address Illinois’ need for juvenile justice reform. Every child should be given every opportunity to have a fresh start upon entering adulthood as long as their crime was not of a violent nature, and by wiping their slate clean, troubled teens can become successful and contributing adults.”

HB 5017 was a bipartisan initiative, with Wheeler carrying the bill in the House and Democrat Kwame Raul of Chicago carrying it in the Senate. Click here to hear Wheeler speak about the provisions of the bill.
Citizens of Round Lake and Fox Lake will see property tax relief through sanitary district legislation sponsored by State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) and State Senator Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) that was signed into law on Friday by Governor Bruce Rauner.

HB 5584, signed as Public Act 99-0783, will allow the Round Lake and Fox Lake Sanitary Districts to have their duties and obligations taken over by Lake County. “Reducing and eliminating units of redundant or unnecessary layers of government is a priority for me as it leads to significant savings for taxpayers,” said Wheeler. “There are many instances where a larger unit of government can absorb functions of smaller taxing districts, and I will continue to look for ways to reduce the local tax burden through these types of consolidations or dissolutions.”

The measure received unanimous support in the House and Senate. “Illinois has more governing bodies than any other state, creating inefficiencies and duplicative services,” said Althoff. “This new law aims to consolidate those services to provide relief to our taxpayers. May of the services these sanitary districts provide can be easily assumed and done so at a lower cost.”

The new law takes effect immediately.
As the Summer Olympic Games get underway today in Rio de Janeiro, locally we send our best wishes so Grant Community High School graduate Daniel Dennis, who will represent his hometown of Fox Lake, the State of Illinois, and the United States of America as a member of the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team. Daniel will be competing in the 57 kg (125.5 pounds) weight division.

During his high school wrestling career at Grant, where he earned the nickname “the Mad Man,” Daniel recorded 153 wins and was a two-time IHSA state finalist. Dennis went on to the University of Iowa, where he became a two-time All-American and was the winner of the 2008 Midlands Championships. He spent a few years away from competition, but was encouraged to return and won an astonishing underdog victory by 10-0 fall to make the Olympic team on April 10.

This spring I honored Daniel for his accomplishments by filing a resolution in Springfield in his honor. For full text of House Resolution 1180 that honors Dennis, click here.   

Olympic wrestling coverage takes place on Friday, August 19th, with Dennis’ first match occurring at about 10:00 AM Central Time. Medals will be awarded that night.

The networks of NBC will be providing coverage of this year’s Olympic Games, and I will be providing updates on my Facebook page about Daniel’s matches and the total medal count.  To view a complete schedule of Olympic events, click here

I plan to host a watch party on the 19th during the day and evening at Marzano’s, located at 1501 South Route 31 in McHenry. I hope you’ll join me to help cheer on our hometown hero, Daniel Dennis!
Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that his office has reinstated the mailing of vehicle registration reminder notices to Illinois drivers. To offset the cost of the mailings, White is drafting legislation allowing his office to offer advertising space on the mailings. In addition, White is urging the public to sign-up for email notices to further reduce mailing costs.

The Secretary of State’s office discontinued mailing reminders in October 2015 due to the lack of funding as a direct result of the state budget impasse. The stop-gap budget recently passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor allows White’s office to reinstate the notices.

“The notices are an essential tool for the public to be sure their vehicles are in good standing and avoid paying late fees and fines resulting from tickets issued by law enforcement,” White said. “The driving public paid the price for the budget impasse and it proved to be an unfair burden. With the funds from the stop-gap budget the notices will resume. In addition, we are reducing the number of mailings and seeking alternative funding sources for the postage costs.”

“Although we are now able to reinstate mailing the vehicle registration reminder notices, I continue to strongly urge motorists to sign up for email reminders,” said White. “Saving taxpayer dollars is always a priority of our administration.”

White noted that more than 2.3 million people have registered for the email notification, 800,000 of which signed up since October 2015.

Vehicle owners can sign up for email notifications by visiting the Secretary of State website, www.cyberdriveillinois.com. To register for the program, vehicle owners will need their assigned registration ID and PIN, which can be found on their current vehicle registration card. If that information is not available, they can call the Secretary of State public inquiry division at 800-252-8980 to obtain the Registration ID and PIN.

The one-time registration process will allow vehicle owners to receive a series of three email notices per vehicle each year highlighting the upcoming vehicle expiration date.
It is my pleasure to present to you my 2016 End of Session Report. My staff and I prepared this report for you, to give you an in-depth look at this past legislative term and to ask for your feedback in the enclosed survey.

These are truly challenging times, but as you will see in the enclosed pages, we had some key successes this year. You may access the report by clicking on the image to the left.
Legislation sponsored by State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) that offers college-bound high school students an opportunity to earn college credit while saving on college tuition costs was signed into law on Friday by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Students applying to some Illinois public universities are required to complete two years of foreign language studies to be considered for admission. HB 4330 would allow students to meet that admissions requirement based on a proficiency exam, and those who earn high marks on the test would receive college credit for their proficiency. “The cost of a college education is out of reach for a growing number of Illinois families, and to help combat those costs this legislation offers significant savings to students who have shown proficiency in a foreign language,” said Wheeler. “The cost of the average foreign language class at the University of Illinois last year was $5,553. Those are real dollars that can be saved when students do well in their high school foreign language studies.”

According to Wheeler, the college credit obtained through the foreign language proficiency exam would be similar to credit earned through success on an Advanced Placement test for college level high school classes.

“In addition to providing an opportunity to save on tuition costs, the Seal of Biliteracy is an impressive achievement that can be listed on college applications,” Wheeler said. “With admissions becoming more and more selective, this type of accomplishment will look very good to admissions counselors.”
High School Students to Stop Taking PARCC Tests
The State Board of Education announced on Monday, July 11 that beginning in the spring of 2017, high school students would no longer have to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. Instead, the State will subsidize and supervise the administration of a statewide SAT college entrance exam in spring 2017. Students in 11th grade will take the SAT. The SAT is administered according to an established nationwide protocol and its results are published in numbers that are relatively accessible and familiar to students and educators. SAT tests will be administered in compliance with the State law evaluating high school student body performance and progress. Students in grades 3 through 8 will continue to take separate PARCC tests geared to their age groups. 

Wheeler Co-Sponsors Resolution to Remove Auditor General for Cause
Questions have multiplied concerning the campaign fund of former State Representative Frank Mautino. After his appointment to the post of Illinois Auditor General in late 2015, the former lawmaker and his campaign fund were placed under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury. Charges against Mautino include misappropriation of campaign funds, ethical concerns and potential conflicts of interest. Citing the activities of himself and his counsel before the grand jury, Mautino has refused to respond to questions from the General Assembly relating to the investigation and his fitness to remain in office.

The Auditor General is an office created by Article VIII of the Illinois Constitution to audit the spending and operations of State agencies, including compliance with the laws that authorize their operations. In addition, past Auditor Generals have been asked to undertake additional investigations and submit additional reports to the General Assembly on questions involving public policy, including the operations of units of local government that represent parts of the State. Mautino is serving a ten-year term that is not set to expire until December 31, 2025, but he can be removed by a vote of three-fifths of the members of both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly for cause. HJR 158, filed on Wednesday, July 13 by Representative Dwight Kay has more than a dozen House Republican co-sponsors.

Gov. Bruce Rauner Establishes School Funding Commission
A new 25-member bipartisan commission established by Gov. Rauner will study Illinois’ school funding formula, the law used to divide and distribute Illinois school aid money into payments made to Illinois school districts. Illinois’ 863 school districts, the local units of governance that operate public elementary and secondary schools, depend on biweekly school aid payments to keep their doors open. Increasing concerns about the school aid formula contained in the current School Code spurred the creation of this commission. The five House Republican members appointed to the bipartisan commission are Representatives Avery Bourne, Sheri Jesiel, Dwight Kay, Bob Pritchard, and Christine Winger. The school funding formula last saw major structural changes in 1997, although the overall distribution of money to Illinois schools has been repeatedly ‘tweaked’ and modified since. The Illinois School Funding Reform Commission has been asked to report its findings to the Illinois General Assembly by February 1, 2017. 

State of Illinois Completes Rollout of New Job Opportunity for Unemployed Illinoisans
Illinois JobLink is a resume-posting platform operated by the Department of Employment Security (IDES) that is open to persons seeking employment in Illinois. Under a new policy going into effect on Sunday, July 17, persons filing for Illinois unemployment benefits after being laid off are going to be asked to fill out and post their resumes on Illinois JobLink as a condition of completing their application for benefits.

The Department is aware that people who need to file for benefits may have questions about how to complete the JobLink process and resume. The JobLink home page can be found here. In past years, nearly 60% of Illinois unemployment benefit filings did not include a work history or resume, despite the importance of these documents to potential employers. IDES believes that linking JobLink resume filing with unemployment benefits will speed up the hiring of unemployed persons.

New I-Refi Program from IHDA Will Help Some Under-Water Homeowners
The program, from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), is aimed at homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the home is worth. Eligible homeowners, starting August 1, will be invited to apply for admission to the “Hardest Hit” program. Residents and families helped by the program could see a reduction in the amount owed on their mortgages. A mortgage financing data tracker, CoreLogic, reports that approximately 14% of all Illinois home mortgages are currently underwater.

The Illinois program is being backed by $45.7 million in U.S. Treasury funding. It is projected that 1,800 homeowner applicants will successfully apply for admission to the program and will get debt-reduction assistance of approximately $25,000 per home. Applicants to the program, which is targeted towards modest and middle-class home in challenged geographic areas, will be granted a maximum of $50,000 in debt-reduction assistance. The assistance will be credited towards the debt owed on a new, private-sector 30-year mortgage. Twenty-five participating mortgage-finance lenders have been mobilized by IHDA. These firms will refinance the homes of participating homeowners at market rates.

To qualify, applicants must owe at least 10% more than the value of their home, up to $50,000. Despite being under water, they must be current on mortgage payments for at least the past 12 months and must live in the home. Household income eligibility is determined by a sliding scale keyed towards the number of persons in the household and the geographic location of the household. The maximum purchase price of the home is also one of the variables used to gauge overall potential eligibility for admission to the program.

Representative David Welter Appointed to Serve Northern Illinois Legislative House District
Republican leaders in the 75th District have appointed David Welter to represent the district in the Illinois House of Representatives. The district centers along communities close to Interstate 80, including Morris and Seneca, comprising portions of Kendall, Grundy, LaSalle and Will Counties. Welter’s appointment came after former 75th District Rep. John Anthony resigned in June to accept a new job as executive assistant to the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Under State law, the appointment was made by the four GOP chairpersons from the counties located within the 75th District. The chairpersons cast a weighted vote by population of their counties within the vacant district. The selection of Welter, the current Grundy County Board Chairman, was unanimous. Welter will maintain a district office in Morris to serve his constituents. Committee assignments are pending. Welter, who had served on the Grundy County Board since 2010, will also run for a full term as state representative on the November 2016 ballot. Welter was appointed State Representative on Saturday, July 9.

State’s Affirmative Markets Initiative Strengthened through Executive Order
The Executive Order, signed on Wednesday, July 13, affects small businesses owned and controlled by minorities, women, and persons with disabilities. EO 16-08 directs the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to reform and reorganize its existing Business Enterprise Program. This reorganization is meant to streamline Illinois affirmative markets policies. Among many other changes, EO 16-08 asks CMS to create a standardized procedure to potentially set aside certain procurement contracts for solicitation to firms with enumerated standing. The “Sheltered Markets” set-aside program is supported by a wide variety of business groups. CMS has been asked to monitor its compliance with the Sheltered Markets Initiative and other changes implemented by this Executive Order, and to report annually to the Governor’s office on July 1 of each year, starting on July 1, 2017.
The stopgap State budget, enacted and signed into law on Thursday, June 30 in Springfield provides a full 12 months of funding for Illinois K-12 public schools. This plan will fully fund the foundation level for the first time in many years, ending the unfair practice of proration and will ensure that all school districts get at least as much funding from the State as they received last year. Every school district within the boundaries of District 64 will see an increase in funding.

The school aid includes both general State aid (GSA) and a series of categorical grants provided to many school districts to cover parts of the costs of mandates imposed by the State and other costs of school district operation. In addition, the FY17 K-12 education bill appropriated $361 million over what was distributed last year in FY16 for the 2015-16 school year. It also allocates $250 million for a new statewide equity grant that will be distributed to school districts based on the State Board of Education’s low income grant formula. The plan also includes a $75 million increase for early childhood education. It does not include a state bailout of Chicago Public Schools.

This chart illustrates the estimated increase in funding that District 64 schools will receive for 2016-2017:

New FY17 Spending Bills will Enable Full K-12 School Operations for Entire School Year
The General Assembly took action on June 30 to fund K-12 Education for Fiscal Year 2017 at record-high funding levels. By contrast, however, the legislation funds most other State operations only through December 2016. The “stopgap” bills do not balance the budget and do not solve Illinois’ fiscal woes. The State’s leaders believe that the current Springfield policy gap has achieved dimensions great enough that only the voters of Illinois, in the November election, can choose which path the State should follow. The key bill that actually appropriated money for FY16 and FY17 was SB 2047. Some elements of the package appropriated money so that it could be legally used to match spending/spending commitments made in FY16, which ended on Thursday. Other bills in the package contained “substantive” legislation, effective starting on Friday, intended to implement the FY17 portion of the package and match State law to appropriated spending.

The stopgap budget package was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner before the end of the day and prior to the start of FY17. The measures include funding to ensure that Illinois schools, including the troubled Chicago public school system, will reopen on time. Money is included to resume or maintain operations at Illinois state universities and other essential public facilities. Funds are earmarked to enable the fulfillment of this summer’s construction schedule for the repair and maintenance of State roads, bridges, and mass transit facilities. Some money is provided for community social services. The House vote on SB 2047 was 105-4-1. After unanimous approval in the Senate, the appropriation bill became law as P.A. 99-524.

District 64 Schools to Receive Record-High Funding in FY17
One key element of the funding package approved on June 30 allows every Illinois School District to open on time in the fall with record-high levels of funding. In fact, for the first time in seven years, funding sent through the state aid formula will not be prorated. Every District 64 School District will see an increase in funding for the 2016-2017 school year. The chart below shows an estimate of how each of my school districts will benefit:

Comptroller’s Count Shows Illinois Now Owes More Than $7.8 Billion in Past-Due Bills
The running count, which is frequently updated, is included in the public website operated by Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger. As Illinois’ cash-flow superintendent, Munger is informed daily of the due-bill situation facing the State. The total of $7.81 billion, counted as of Wednesday, June 29, counts vouchers tabulated by the Comptroller’s office and payable from Illinois general funds that are classified as “backlogged” – vouchers on file for significant periods of time without State payment. The Comptroller’s office currently counts 66,971 backlogged State vouchers. These numbers are constantly changing as funds move in and out of various State coffers.

The $7.8 billion figure does not represent the totality of debts owed by Illinois and its taxpayers. Additional debts owed by Illinois included monies obligated by ongoing State programs but not yet billed to the State. In addition, pension actuaries warn that Illinois’ unfunded pension debts now total more than $110 billion. Illinois Republicans, led by House Republican leader Jim Durkin and Governor Bruce Rauner, point to these mushrooming debts and obligations. They continue to insist that the State enact structural reforms to its laws governing job creation and public-sector labor relations.

Chicago Board of Education Could Approve Massive Property Tax Hike for Owners of Chicago Real Property
The Chicago school board move, expected to raise $250 million annually, was authorized as part of SB 318. This measure, which was amended with the tax-hike language and passed by the Illinois House on Thursday, June 30, was part of the end-of-fiscal-year package to enact spending measures for FY17 and enable Illinois schools to open on time. The Chicago Public Schools budget gap necessitated action to enable the city to raise an additional $250 million/year from local resources.

If the School Board adopts this property tax increase, statewide taxpayers outside Chicago will not be responsible for this $250 million. Rejecting a “bailout” of the troubled Chicago system, House Republicans took the lead in rejecting the push by Chicago lawmakers to impose this burden upon the suburbs and Downstate. Part of the budget gap comes from a massive increase in the level of unfunded pension liabilities borne by Chicago Public Schools, and the Illinois House enacted the amendment in such a way as to require that the money raised by the tax hike must be deposited directly into the pension fund and cannot be diverted or used for any other purpose. Chicago Public Schools currently owes a $669 million pension payment to the teachers’ pension fund. The House vote to enact SB 318 was 82-29-0. Senate approval by a vote of 40-14-0 allowed Gov. Rauner to sign the measure into law as P.A. 99-521.

Governor Signs Enhancement to Open Meetings Act Spurred by College Turmoil
The new State law will require that any and all available minutes and verbatim recordings of meetings closed to the public must be made available to a newly elected official who has been selected to fill a seat in a public body. The new law grants a “level playing field” to access to confidential board-of-directors information to newly chosen members of the body’s board of directors. This is significant when a newly chosen member or members have been chosen as part of a reform effort aimed at questionable or improper actions affiliated with the previous board.

HB 4630, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeanne Ives, was approved unanimously by both houses of the General Assembly this spring. It was inspired by recent management events at DuPage Community College and the election, by local voters, of a “Clean Slate” who took a majority position on the college’s board of trustees. Governor Rauner on Thursday, June 30, signed HB 4630 into law as P.A. 99-515.

House, Senate Vote to Waive Vehicle Sticker Delinquent Registration Renewal Supplemental Late Fees if No Warning Mailed
The waiver is only effective if the Secretary of State has not previously mailed a motor vehicle license sticker-renewal notification to the affected motor vehicle owner. These notification letters, which had been familiar elements in the mailboxes of Illinois drivers, were suspended in 2015 due to Illinois’ budget situation. Many Illinois residents have complained about no longer getting the letters and then facing penalties for late sticker-renewal actions. In addition, police are authorized to stop motor vehicles with expired stickers.

The supplemental late-fee waiver bill was approved by the House on Thursday, June 30. The House vote on HB 4334, as amended, was 111-0-0. As the Senate had previously approved the final language of the bill, the House vote marked the final legislative step necessary to send the measure to the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner for final action.

Happy Independence Day!
On Monday, people across the nation will celebrate Independence Day. As you gather with loved ones, please take a moment to remember those who have made the decision to serve their country and who have taken steps to defend the freedoms we enjoy. 

Let us all honor all service men and women who continue to defend the liberties proclaimed by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and through the United States Constitution. It is important that we not only recognize their service; but also respect their devotion to duty.