The Illinois House of Representatives adopted a resolution Wednesday to encourage the continued use of vaccines for children, adolescents and adults to ensure the safety and health of the citizens of Illinois. The bill, HR 184, was introduced and sponsored by Deputy House Minority Leader and State Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale).

“Immunizing children and adolescents helps protect the health of our communities throughout the State of Illinois by slowing down or stopping certain disease outbreaks,” Rep. Bellock said. “I grew up during the era of the polio epidemic, when thousands of children and adults suffered lifelong paralysis. The advent of the polio vaccine virtually eradicated the disease from the United States, as did the vaccines for measles and other communicable diseases.” Read more.

Budget work begins
General Assembly starts work on FY16 budget. The budget reform work necessary to finish up Fiscal Year 2015 and start FY16 remained on the table this week as Illinois House committees began to hold hearings on Illinois spending plans. The first hearings by the House appropriations committees began on Thursday, February 26.

In the first committee hearing, the new heads of three of the State’s biggest-spending agencies – the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) – introduced themselves to the House of Representatives. All three were appointed by Governor Bruce Rauner. Major work will be necessary to develop a spending program that does not flow money out faster than it comes in. DHFS, in particular, is a department of key interest to budget watchers. It handles the multi-billion-dollar Illinois Medicaid program. Controversial decisions and hard choices are expected to be made. Representative Patti Bellock has taken the lead in working pushing for Medicaid budget reforms. A DHFS overview of the implementation of the reforms so far enacted, and the current budget status of Medicaid, can be found here.
A tiny little republic with a population of 100 sits in the middle of southern Illinois corn and soybean fields. Their GDP is tea sourced from around the world.

In reality, California-based The Republic of Tea  is a privately held purveyor of premium organic and exotic teas, with its major production and pick-and-pack facility situated in the unlikely location of Nashville, Illinois.  It is also a major employer in the area with a workforce of 100 “ministers.”

After selling their interests in the original Banana Republic stores, Mel & Patricia Zielgler along with Bill Rosenzwig founded The Republic of Tea in 1992 and then sold the company in 1994 to Ron Rubin. Under Rubin’s guidance the business has grown into a nationally recognized brand. Which means good things for the people in Washington County Illinois who count on the good paying jobs that high quality tea offers.

“Who would have thought that in the middle of dairy and soybean country a company like The Republic of Tea would thrive,” said State Rep. Charlie Meier who toured the facility a few years back. “If it wasn’t for the Enterprise Zone designation we may have never found out.”

Rep. Meier credits the economic development tool with securing the socially responsible company with its 100 jobs.

Oped by Rep. Barbara Wheeler.

Last fall, I reported progress on halting an appalling practice that is much closer to home than most of us realize, human-trafficking. Human-trafficking is a modern-day version of slavery that is thriving in the United States and sadly, in some our own communities. Every day, human beings are bought, sold, or smuggled so that others can profit from their forced labor or sexual servitude. While every state criminalizes at least some forms of trafficking activity, legislators across the nation continue to explore new ways to combat traffickers and provide support for victims.

Most of us are unaware, but human-trafficking is a lucrative business right here in northern Illinois. In this area, human traffickers are using the massage parlor industry as a cover and method for connecting sex-trade customers with mostly East Asian women, both documented and undocumented, who are being forced to perform sex acts. Operators of these parlors locate in communities where zoning laws do not specifically address licensure, lighting, dress codes, and hours of operation for massage parlors. Read more.
State Representative David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) has authored HB 2508, better known as the Right to Try Act, to allow terminally ill patients access to experimental treatments. If the legislation becomes law, it would make Illinois a national leader by allowing patients who have exhausted all other treatment options the ability to utilize promising treatments that are still awaiting final FDA approval.

“Sadly, terminally ill patients often lose their struggle for life because they cannot wait several years for the FDA to approve a potentially life-saving treatment,” said Harris. “While testing new medical treatments is hugely important to ensuring their safety and effectiveness, it is reasonable to allow someone who has been diagnosed as terminally ill to use one of those treatments with the recommendation and supervision of their doctor."
The newly formed bipartisan Violence Prevention Task Force met for the first time on Monday.

Charged with finding ways to keep students safe and prevent the types of attacks that occurred at NIU, Sandy Hook and Columbine, lawmakers heard testimony from educators, law enforcement and mental health professionals on what needs to be done to keep students safe.

First Lady Diana Rauner testified that early childhood programs could help prevent potential acts of violence by identifying vulnerable children. But, more needs to be done to help them after they are identified. Mrs. Rauner is president of the nonprofit Once of Prevention Fund.

Others testified that much more should be done to help children before they turn to violence and protect children from that violence.

Given a report that showed opportunities were missed to treat the 20-year-old who killed 26 people, including children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who attended the task force hearing, agrees that lawmakers must do more to protect families from violence. “Acts of violence occur all too often in our communities. Sadly, mental health and crime are increasingly intertwined, and a comprehensive approach by the Legislature is timely and necessary,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said.

Rep. Bennett was raised on a small farm near Gibson City IL, today he works as an IT manager for a national insurance company.  Rep. Bennett has a BS in Education and in Applied Computer Science, He also earned  MBA, and a Doctorate of Business Administration. He and wife have two grown children and three wonderful grandchildren.

Rep. Bennett served on the House Committees for Elementary & Secondary Education & Higher Education Appropriations, Consumer Protection, Higher Education, Renewable Energy & Sustainability and State Government Administration.

Read more about Rep. Tom Bennett.

State Representative Don Moffitt (R-Gilson) this week introduced legislation which urges the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to include healthy, Illinois-made snacks in its highway rest area vending machines.

“This legislation will offer healthier snacking options to travelers, while giving us the chance to showcase our Illinois products,” Moffitt said.

IDOT would be encouraged to stock at least three snacks containing less than 220 calories for every 10 snacks that are offered in its vending machines. It asks the agency to make sure that two of the three products are made in Illinois. IDOT operates 30 rest areas and 11 welcome centers along the state’s segments of the Interstate highway system. Read more.

Here's an excerpt of our own newest House Republican Representative Avery Bourne's recent feature in the Huffington Post Politics article on young lawmakers state legislatures:

Appointed to a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives by county party leaders after her predecessor left to head the state Department of Natural Resources, Bourne was the youngest of the 10 candidates to apply. "I've lived in this rural district in downstate Illinois for my entire life, and my family's been farming corn and soybeans here for generations," the 22-year-old Republican said.

Read the Huffington Post's profile of the 12 youngest legislators in the nation. 

Bruce Rauner – FY16 Budget
Governor Rauner lays out turnaround budget blue print.  The budget for fiscal year 2016 (FY16) presented by Governor Bruce Rauner to the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, February 18 contains many challenges to traditional spending patterns in Springfield.  Serious cuts are imposed on a wide variety of expenditures, especially in areas covered by GRF spending ($31.5 billion).  Rauner says Illinois taxation and spending has, for too long, been on autopilot and that he was elected to pull the State’s government out of a death spiral.
In an effort to gain a full and comprehensive understanding into the financial activity surrounding the College of DuPage (COD) since 2011, State Representative Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) has amended a House Resolution filed last month to deepen the scope of an investigation by the Illinois Auditor General.

The original resolution, HR55, was filed in response to the COD Trustees’ decision last month to approve a $763,000 contract buyout deal for its current College President Robert Breuder, who will leave is post later this year.

“Those who pay taxes to the College of DuPage were outraged by the reckless decision to provide President Breuder with a $763,000 golden parachute deal on his way out the door,” said Ives. “House Resolution 55 asks the Illinois Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the College of DuPage for fiscal years 2011-2014, and the amendment I filed this week adds depth to the areas that can be investigated.” Read more.

On hand for the announcement of Caterpillar’s new World Headquarters in Peoria, Illinois House Republicans praised the Caterpillar decision and re-commitment to retaining their headquarters in Illinois.

The decision to build their new headquarters was announced on Friday at the Caterpillar Visitor’s Center by Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman before a crowd of state and local dignitaries and leaders.  Caterpillar’s new corporate campus will be built in a largely expanded footprint extending several blocks around Caterpillar’ current headquarters.  The total campus size when completed will be over 31 acres of Downtown Peoria along the Illinois River.  The new headquarters will be a three tower building spanning six city blocks.

“We’re here in Peoria to stay.  Our long-term future is here,” said Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman in announcing the new headquarters campus.

Governor Bruce Rauner went on to call this is an, “outstanding day for Illinois!”

Peoria area legislators, Deputy Minority Leader David Leitch (R-Peoria), Rep. Keith Sommer (R-Morton) and Rep. Mike Unes (R-East Peoria), were on hand for the announcement, along with federal, state, and local dignitaries and community leaders.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is the new state assessment and accountability measure for Illinois students enrolled in a public school district. PARCC assesses the New Illinois Learning Standards incorporating Common Core and will be administered to students in English-Language Arts and Mathematics. Many school districts are reluctant to accept the PARCC exam and want more time to ensure students are ready to take the tests - but they risk federal funding if they don't comply.

The House committee on Elementary & Secondary Education: School Curriculum & Policies will be hearing subject matter testimony on PARCC Assessments next Wednesday, February 25 at 4 p.m. in Hearing Room 114 in the Capitol Building.
For the first time in 10 years an Illinois Governor presented a budget on the prescribed date and with acknowledgement that the financial picture is bleak for the state. During his address Governor Rauner laid out his blueprint to turn the state around financially.

Governor Rauner provided a realistic budget figure based on current revenues. Not only did his “turnaround budget” proposal not include new programs, it also takes care of our financial obligations. That, too, is a first in more than a decade.  Additionally, the proposal did not include any tax increases, “Before we ask the people of Illinois to pay more to fund state government, we must ensure taxpayers are getting value for their money,” stated Governor Rauner during his address to the General Assembly.
State Representative Avery Bourne (R-Litchfield) was sworn in today to her first term as 95th District State Representative. Bourne recently received selection to the seat vacated by former State Representative Wayne Rosenthal, who now heads the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Bourne, a native of Montgomery County, and a law student at Washington University in St. Louis, was sworn in by Judge John Schmidt this morning on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives surrounded by her family, friends, and colleagues.
Like many child care providers, Amy Steck said she continues to be frustrated by the state's handling of the Child Care Assistance program.

The financially strapped program provides for 100,000 families in Illinois, as it reimburses child care providers for serving the low-income families at discounted rates.

But Steck, director of the Kids-N-Fitness in Decatur and Forsyth, said she has seen the program drift away from its goal.

“I see a lot more families that are needing this program,” she said. “It started as a program that was necessary for single parents and full-time students. But it's really gone now to a place where it's families that are together, but not married, and they base the qualifications on just one parent.

“I'm totally in support of anything that reforms this program.”

Those changes are expect to be presented to the Illinois General Assembly in a plan being proposed by state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth. The plan, which has not be submitted to lawmakers in a bill yet, would urge the Illinois Auditor General to audit the Child Care Assistance program, establish an asset value test for families participating in the program to determine who is in most need of assistance, a proof of legal residency in Illinois to qualify and for future applicants to the program to provide the father's identification. Read the rest of the story in the Herald-Review.
Rep. Christine Winger's service to the public spans more than 15 years, first as a Wood Dale City Councilwoman then as Deputy Mayor. Now as the State Representative for the 45th District, she brings her local government and professional experience as a project manager and financial advisor to the state of Illinois. It will be needed to tackle the state's budget concerns.

Rep. Winger serves on the General Services Appropriations, Financial Institutions, Insurance, Renewable Energy & Sustainability, Small Business Empowerment and Veteran's Affairs Committees.
Read more about Rep. Winger.

An Illinois lawmaker wants driver education teachers to spend more time warning beginner motorists to be on the lookout for motorcycles.

Under a proposal by state Rep. Tom Bennett, R-Gibson City, teachers would be required to incorporate more time behind the wheel to helping students learn about motorcycle safety.

Bennett, a freshman member of the House who is not a motorcycle rider, said he drafted the legislation to ensure students understand their surroundings when they are operating a vehicle.

"This is a concern raised by the constituents in my district," Bennett said. "I think I've ridden a motorcycle one time

"We've often heard motorists say, `I hit him but I didn't see him,'" Bennett said. "We'd like to get a little more focus on that." Read more in the Southern Illinoisan.
Criminal law – Rauner task force
Goal of reducing State budget growth while maintaining security for Illinois residents and families.  One of the underlying causes of Illinois’ mushrooming budget is the cost of guarding tens of thousands of Illinois’ criminals, including many nonviolent criminals, in State prisons, county jails, and county detention centers.  State prisons alone are holding inmates at 150 percent of design capacity.  The Illinois Department of Corrections budget is $1.3 billion/year paid by taxpayers, with additional hundreds of millions spent by county sheriffs to maintain jails for low-level felons and misdemeanants.
“He’s trying to address the issue of safety in our prisons not
only for staff but for inmates,” said State Rep. Don Moffitt
Illinois needs to do a better job of ensuring criminals don’t reoffend, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Wednesday at the Sangamon County Courthouse.
“Illinois is in desperate need for criminal justice reform,” Rauner said noting that its prisons are overcrowded and the state is spending too much money on incarcerating people and not devoting enough effort toward rehabilitating them.
He used the occasion to sign an executive order creating a commission to recommend ways to overhaul the criminal justice system from arrest to incarceration to an inmate’s release into society.
The governor noted that 48 percent of adults and 54 percent of juveniles commit new crimes within three years of being released. Read more. Read more by Scott Redder in Heartland.

Rep. Reggie Phillips grew up in Arthur, Illinois and represents the 110th District.  Phillips, 60, has been married for 38 years.  He and his wife, Martha,  have four adult children and nine grandchildren.

In 1986, Rep. Phillips and his wife started a residential and commercial building business in Charleston, Illinois which now employs approximately 400 people

Learn more about Rep. Phillips.

Governor Bruce Rauner
State of the State address takes aim at laws that swell taxes, government spending.  Prevailing wage law, project labor agreements, and unfunded mandates are elements of the “big picture” of Illinois public-sector spending. Gov. Rauner’s agenda, presented to the General Assembly in his State of the State address on Wednesday, February 4, called for comprehensive reforms to the “iron triangle” of public-sector career executives, government labor unions, and elected officials who are friendly to both groups. The Chicago Tribune covered the story.
House Republicans respond to Gov. Rauner's State-of-the-State Address.

Leader Jim Durkin (Burr Ridge)
"Governor Rauner was very bold...and it is what the people of Illinois want to hear: How we're going to get out of this debt spiral. Its about a long term plan to turn the state of Illinois around." Watch the video.

Rep. Norine Hammond (Macomb)
“For years, I have been pushing for reforms to Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and our Workers Compensation system. I am pleased to hear Governor Rauner highlight some of these problems that we can address to attract jobs back to Illinois..”
Steve Andersson is the State Representative for Illinois’ 65th Legislative District which includes parts of Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, Pingree Grove, Plato Center, Elgin, South Elgin, Hampshire, and Huntley. He and his wife, Nanette, have been residents of Geneva for 22 years. They have been married for 27 years and have two children.

Read more about Rep. Andersson.

West suburban lawmakers announced a package of bills on Monday aimed at punishing the College of DuPage for giving President Robert Breuder a lucrative severance package and at preventing other taxing bodies from approving similar buyouts.

The proposed legislation, most of which has not been filed yet, ranges from capping severance packages to cutting state funding for schools agreeing to large buyouts such as one Breuder received.

“It’s distressing to again be forced to look to setting parameters on local government, but the fact of the matter is that the people of our area are demanding action,” state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, said at a news conference in Chicago on Monday. “We can’t sit silently by without bringing solutions to the table.” Read the story in the Chicago Tribune.

More articles on this issue:
State Lawmakers Looking To Thwart Big Severance Deals Like One Given To COD President
Area House Republicans Look to Curb “Golden Parachutes”
Armed with a wide set of accountability measures,
all agree that large payouts must end.
With constituents stinging from the recent severance agreement negotiated by the College of DuPage Board, area House Republican lawmakers stepped up with a range of proposals all aimed at the same goal, preventing these types of “golden parachutes” in the future.

DuPage Republican Jeanne Ives (R, Wheaton), an outspoken critic of the college board, led off the press conference stressing the intensity of her constituents over the matter.  “It’s distressing to again be forced to look to setting parameters on local government, but the fact of the matter is that the people of our area are demanding action,” stated Ives.  ”We can’t sit silently by without bringing solutions to the table.”