Citing an improving economy in Illinois, Governor Rauner announced today that he would restore $26 million to social service and public health grants that were frozen earlier this year because of budget constraints.

Grants for autism, addiction prevention, assistance for homeless, teen REACH and other programs were impacted by the freeze. The Governor was able to restore funding to these programs because of better than expected revenues projections.  The bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability expects an additional $300 million to $500 million in tax revenue because of an improving economy in Illinois.

It must be noted that this restoration is only for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2015. Appropriation hearings have just begun for fiscal year 2016.

Here is what a few of our members are saying:
Small business now has a stronger voice in Springfield, thanks to State Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, and State Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills, who recently formed the Small Business Owners Caucus in the Illinois House of Representatives.

“Small business is the backbone of our state and local economy, accounting for over 60% of all new private-sector jobs created in America each year,” Rep. Wheeler said. “This new bipartisan caucus will bring together small business owners from every region of Illinois to formulate policy reforms that will make our state more competitive and help to attract and retain quality Illinois jobs for Illinois families.”

The 20-member Small Business Owners Caucus has been created to bring together state legislators who are current or former small business owners to share similar entrepreneurial experiences. Activities will include caucus-backed legislative proposals and supporting individual caucus members' legislative ideas, as well as holding subject matter focused business discussions with the constitutional officers, agency directors, legislative leaders and pro-business organizations. Various business groups have already come forward with ideas of establishing an annual scorecard of pro-business legislation and nominating annual champions of the business community. Read more.

Budget – Infrastructure 
Statewide discussion on capital spending begins. Governor Bruce Rauner announced on Tuesday, April 21 that he will soon start an infrastructure Listening Tour (http://www.idot.illinois.gov/about-idot/stay-connected/events/Infrastructure-Investment) in which the Governor will talk to local leaders in at least 30 separate Illinois communities to hear their needs for additional help in maintaining vital local infrastructure. At the same time, Illinois House budget working groups will be meeting on FY16 budget challenges, including issues of public infrastructure.
Road construction projects are popping up all over Illinois along with work zone designations.

Here are FAQ's about the laws behind all those signs:

Do workers have to be present to receive a speeding ticket in a work zone?

Workers do not have to be present for a motorist to receive a speeding ticket in a work zone.
A business originally based out of California is making Illinois its home citing Illinois' improving business climate as the reason for its move.

Welkins LLC was founded in 2004, but its founder, Bill Elkins has been an innovative force for much longer than that. You could say that some of his technology and inventions are literally out of this world. Elkins has been called “one of the true fathers of the spacesuit” and his work with NASA in the 1960’s put him in U.S. Space Foundation’s Space Technology Hall of Fame. WElkins prides itself on creating innovative cooling systems for the “hospital, sideline, battlefield, and beyond.” Their cooling technology can help prevent concussions, heat stress, and can be used for therapeutic hypothermia, just to name a few applications.
With little notice, and in a clear power play to challenge the Governor’s authority to craft the state’s budget, Democrats fast-tracked legislation to increase the Department of Children and Family Services’ budget by $100 million without going through the appropriations process.

Many Republicans would have supported the funding of the programs identified in the bill and even championed them in budget negotiations. They could not however support the circumvention of the appropriations process or voting for a bill of this magnitude without review.
Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) has filed House Resolution 404 in an effort the reexamine the impact of PARCC testing on Illinois. Wheeler’s resolution also calls on the State Board of Education to be more transparent about the implementation and use of PARCC. Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor), of the neighboring 61st District, has joined Wheeler in this call, along with several other General Assembly members.

“The rollout of PARCC testing this year has been poor to say the least,” said Wheeler. “In most schools, teachers weren’t properly prepared to administer the testing, which has left our students unprepared and very frustrated. This is made worse because there is no legitimate way for parents to ask that their child not be tested because of the contract the federal government is demanding states comply with to maintain funding.”

Wheeler continued, “Many of my colleagues and I have been hearing from parents that are greatly concerned because their children, who are good students, have become so overwhelmed by testing that doesn’t align with their classroom instruction. As a former teacher, and a more importantly a parent, it’s clear we need to reevaluate PARCC and ensure that it doesn’t hinder our children’s scholastic success.” Read more.

A bill to partially privatize the state's economic development agency has surfaced abruptly in Springfield, and it may be on a fast track to passage.

The proposal, contained in an amendment filed yesterday by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie to a bill sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, would give both the speaker and Gov. Bruce Rauner something they want.

Rauner would get to establish a private Illinois Business & Economic Development Corp. that would pick up many of the key functions of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, a state government agency. For instance, the corporation would have the power to negotiate tax incentive deals with companies, subject to final approval by DCEO. The idea is similar to proposals Rauner made during his race for governor. Read more in the Chicago Tribune.
Legislation inspired by the funeral of Marine Corps Maj. Reid B. Nannen of Hopedale passed the Illinois House Tuesday, the latest step in an effort to allow state and national flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Illinois military personnel killed while training or on active duty. The bill is sponsored by State Representative Keith Sommer (R-Morton).

“With this change we can correct a mistake in Illinois’ Flag Display Act which only allows flags at state facilities to be flown half-staff for Illinoisans killed by hostile fire instead of including those who are lost while training for active duty,” Sommer said.

The bill passed the House Veterans Affairs committee last month following testimony from Dale Nannen of Hopedale, Reid Nannen’s father. Dale Nannen testified that Marines who came to his son’s funeral commented to him on their surprise at seeing flags in Illinois not lowered to half-staff. He also mentioned that friends had told him that flags in Nevada, the site of the accident, had been lowered to half-staff the day after the crash. Read more.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), in conjunction with the Illinois Capital Development Board, announced today the start of a series of listening sessions over the next month to discuss the state’s infrastructure needs and the steps required to make sure the right investments are being made to keep Illinois competitive in a 21st century global economy. The meetings will be held in multiple communities throughout the state, with a goal of presenting Governor Rauner’s office with a comprehensive package of recommendations for consideration this spring.
State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) passed her first major piece of legislation in the Illinois House of Representatives this week. The legislation, House Bill 2822, creates the Human-Trafficking Task Force Act. The task force will examine the traumatic impact that human-trafficking is having in Illinois and offer solutions by June of 2016 as to how the state of Illinois can counter this surprisingly prevalent practice.

“Although many of us don’t realize it, human-trafficking occurs right under our noses each and every day in many of our communities,” said Jesiel. “While there are many initiatives under way around the country and Illinois that seek to curtail human-trafficking, many challenges still remain. This legislation allows for a thorough examination of how the perpetrators are circumventing current law and recommend better methods so that we as a state can stop this heartbreaking practice and rescue the thousands impacted by this each and every day in Illinois.” Read more.
State Representative Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago) is looking to keep the important work of the Illinois Hepatital C Task Force rolling by extending the groups charter as set by the Illinois General Assembly as established in May of 2013.

“Many times, task forces here in Springfield just don’t take off or gain any traction,” said McAuliffe. “In this case, the interest and productivity of this group has exceeded all expectations. We met consistently and produced a number of solid legislative recommendations which is why I feel it’s important to keep it going.”

The group, which first met in February of 2014, has met consistently on a bi-monthly basis and has produced a multitude legislative initiatives aimed at curbing the growing issue of Hepatitis C in our veteran and senior communities. The group has also hosted Hepatitis C Day at the State Capitol which provides informational displays and brings leading medical experts and free screenings to our State’s capitol. Read more.

More on the Hepatitis C:
McAuliffe Nominated Chair of Hepatitis C Task Force
Hepatitis C: Questions and Answers

Tornado Outbreak – Rochelle Area
Tornado that hit Rochelle and Fairdale classified as EF-4 twister. The classification placed the deadly April 9 Fairdale tornado in the next-to-the-highest category of storm severity. As of Wednesday, April 15, two persons were confirmed dead. Massive property damage was being inventoried assessed. Governor Bruce Rauner has mobilized the State of Illinois’ emergency-response efforts and declared DeKalb and Ogle Counties to be disaster areas.
Rep. John Anthony and John Cabello
Two House Republican legislators with law enforcement backgrounds advanced separate criminal justice reform bills in the Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday aimed at strengthening the ability of current and former inmates who complete an educational degree during their sentence to gain employment upon re-entering the community.

The House approved HB 3884, sponsored by Rep. John Anthony (R-Plainfield), which increases from 60 days to 90 days the length of service credit an eligible offender can earn by completing their high school equivalency testing while in the custody of the Department of Corrections. HB 3884 passed the House by a vote of 95-19 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
In an effort to protect wards of the state, State Representative Christine Winger (R-Bloomingdale) passed legislation out of the Illinois House today that initiates a recommendation made at a legislative hearing scrutinizing the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Rep. Winger’s legislation specifically targets allegations of abuse at state-supported youth residential facilities.

At the hearing, a former ward of the state testified that having the ability to submit complaints, concerns and suggestions anonymously would help improve the safety of state wards living in residential treatment centers regulated by DCFS. She explained that oftentimes residents felt they needed anonymity to report wrongdoing or risk retaliation from their abusers. Read more.
Ever had a chicken nugget or picked up some pre-sliced deli meat? You know those tiny slips of paper in between premade patties? Of course you do. Provisur Technologies is a company you probably have never heard of, but their products are ingrained in our national food culture.

Provisur is a classic story of American ingenuity; the company was started in a garage in Mokena, Illinois by Lou Richards in 1970. Now, Provisur is a worldwide leader in manufacturing food processing, slicing, grinding, forming, and packaging machines, delivering products to over 100 countries.  Back in 1970 the company went by the name Formax, and many of its products are still known today by that name. From its inception, the company has grown, spurred on by its partnership with McDonalds and revolutionary products, and was brought under the umbrella of Provisur, a company that houses six of the leading food processing brands.
State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena)’s bill to address runaway severance agreements passed the House on Wednesday with a vote of 114-2. HB303 amends the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to ban to ban a government body from concealing the terms of a severance agreement funded by tax-payer dollars.  It provides protection for trade secrets, proprietary information, or other exempt information.

“Taxpayers should be entitled to look at the terms of an agreement that a public body, using taxpayer funds, reaches” Rep McDermed said. “This is a victory for public entity transparency.”

The bill was initiated in response to egregious cases of severance payments in the past few years such as a $763,000 severance agreement provided to the outgoing President of College of DuPage, Robert Breuder, and a $700,000 severance agreement given to former Metra CEO Alex Clifford. The bill is a part of the College of DuPage reform package. Read more.
State Representative David Leitch (R-Peoria) announced today that two bills he sponsored to improve mental health services in Illinois have both cleared the Illinois House.

HB 3599, which passed the Illinois House unanimously on Tuesday, creates the Student Optional Disclosure of Private Mental Health Act.  Under provisions of the act, students would be provided the opportunity to pre-authorize in writing the disclosure of certain private mental health information to a designated person...

...Leitch also passed a second bill on Tuesday to increase mental health services for older Illinoisans.  HB 3753, which passed 110-1-1, would integrate mental health services for older adults in primary care medical settings.  “Often, mental health issues for older adults are identified at a much lower rate than other adult populations.  Undiagnosed mental illness for older adults is a huge problem in our care delivery system.  OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria is already moving this direction, but this bill would authorize the Illinois Department of Aging to enact the same protocols,” said Leitch. Read more.

Tornado Outbreak
Tornadoes lash north-central Illinois near Rochelle and Rockford. The twisters touched down late Thursday, April 9. They caused at least two fatalities and extensive property damage in Fairdale, located in northwest DeKalb County.

Governor Bruce Rauner activated the State Incident Response Center Thursday night. The emergency response center coordinates the efforts of local and community first responders to a disaster. It will, if necessary, supervise the deployment of non-community specialized response teams for further aid and assistance.
To follow are photos from areas impacted by last night's tornados:

Photo taken by Rep. Tom Demmer from his office.

Photo by Angharad Urch.
Governor Bruce Rauner declared DeKalb and Ogle counties state disaster areas. At least two people in DeKalb County are reported dead and roughly a dozen more injured. Dozens of homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed.

Every standing structure in the village of Fairdale, IL was either damaged or destroyed by last night's tornado. Kirkland and Rochelle also sustain significant damage.
State agencies ready to assist following tornado touchdowns

Governor Rauner this evening activated the State Incident Response Center (SIRC) in Springfield to ensure state personnel and equipment are ready to be quickly deployed if needed to help local emergency responders with public safety  issues following tornado touchdowns in Illinois this evening.

“I activated the State Incident Response Center to ensure we’re ready to act quickly if any local responders need our assistance,” said Governor Rauner. “We’ve already deployed staff from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to the area to support local response efforts.”

Representatives from more than a dozen state agencies have reported to the SIRC. State officials are assessing the storm’s impact and communicating with local response officials to determine if state resources are needed to ensure citizen safety.

The SIRC will remain activated as long as necessary.

For updates on the current situation, visit the Ready Illinois website at www.ready.illinois.gov.

Here are tips for surviving a tornado, provided by Dr. Greg Forbes, severe weather expert at The Weather Channel, and NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

1. Figure out a safe place to ride out the storm.
2. Get away from windows and get underground.
3. If a tornado appears while you're on the road seek shelter. Don't hide under an overpass. No shelter, find a ditch.
4. Put on your shoes – and a helmet.
5. Keep your pets on a leash or in a carrier, and bring them with you.
6. Don't leave your home and try to drive away from a tornado.
7. Know your severe weather terms:
  • Severe thunderstorm watch: Conditions are conducive to the development of severe thunderstorms in and around the watch area. These storms produce hail of ¾ inch in diameter and/or wind gusts of at least 58 mph.
  • Severe thunderstorm warning: Issued when a severe thunderstorm has been observed by spotters or indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area. These warnings usually last for a period of 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Tornado watch: Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes in and around the watch area. People in the affected areas are encouraged to be vigilant in preparation for severe weather.
  • Tornado warning: Spotters have sighted a tornado or one has been indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area. When a tornado warning has been issued, people in the affected area are strongly encouraged to take cover immediately.
The College of DuPage Board of Trustees will soon be looking at a Clean Slate.

The trio of candidates that campaigned under the name the Clean Slate and received significant support from Vice Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton swept the April 7 election.

Deanne Mazzochi came in the lead with 42,903 votes, according to preliminary reports from the DuPage County Election Commission and the Will and Cook county clerks. Frank Napolitano followed with 34,011 votes. Charles Bernstein was third with 28,352 votes. All candidates will commit to 6-year terms on the board.

The slate won all three seats in DuPage and Will counties and two out of three in Cook County, with incumbents Nancy Svoboda and Kim Savage pushing Bernstein into fifth place. Read more in My Suburban Life.

The average American household spends $2,089 on real estate property taxes each year. The average in Illinois? Nearly twice that number.

Roughly $15 billion-worth of homes are also foreclosed upon as a result of property tax delinquencies each year, according to the National Tax Lien Association.

WalletHub has released a report on the states with the highest and lowest property taxes in 2015, which compares home and vehicle taxes across the country. ABC 7 has the story.
Rep. Grant Wehrli serves the 41st District and is a lifelong resident of Naperville where he currently resides with his family. Before his election to the Illinois General Assembly Rep. Wehrli served a Naperville City Councilman.

More about Rep. Wehrli.