The Wheeler 64 Report: August 23, 2016

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.