In support of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP) asked the Governor of the State of Illinois to declare April 24th through 28th as Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week in an effort to bring attention to the dangers and consequences associated with driving distracted. Governor Rauner issued the proclamation and both houses passed resolutions identifying April 24th through the 28th as Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week.

The ILACP, in partnership with AAA, and supported by the Illinois State Police,, the National Safety Council, the Illinois Insurance Association, almost 300 law enforcement/fire agencies and supporters from the private sector throughout Illinois, will work together during this week to educate motorists on all aspects of distracted driving.  Read more.

According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trust, the
 total unfunded pension liability for Illinois accounts for 10%
of the unfunded pension liabilities of the entire country.
The gap between the total assets reported by state pension systems across the United States and the benefits promised to workers, now reported as the net pension liability, reached $1.1 trillion in fiscal year 2015, the most recent year for which complete data are available. That represents an increase of $157 billion, or 17 percent, from 2014.

A state pension plan’s annual funded ratio gives an end-of-fiscal-year snapshot of the assets as a proportion of its accrued liabilities. In aggregate, the funded ratio of these plans dropped to 72 percent in 2015, down from 75 percent in 2014. Investment returns that fell short of expectations proved to be the largest contributor to the worsening fiscal position, with median overall returns of 3.6 percent.1 On average, state pension plans had assumed a long-run investment return of twice that—7.6 percent—for fiscal 2015.

Though final data for 2016 are not yet available, low returns will also be reflected there. Based on returns averaging 1.0 percent for that year, the net pension liability is expected to increase by close to $200 billion and reach about $1.3 trillion. Market volatility will also have a significant impact on cost predictability in the near and long terms.

Expected increases in the nationwide funding gap of more than $350 billion over two years—primarily because of lower-than-forecast investment returns—will require policymakers in many states to choose from often difficult options: paying more into state pension plans and potentially crowding out other spending in their budgets, or letting funding levels drop and pushing costs into the future. Read more by the Pew Charitable Trust.

Sam Stewart has spent most of the years since he graduated from United Township High School in 1998 in prison, and he is set to complete his third prison sentence next year — with no plans to come back.

"This will be my last time," Mr. Stewart said Tuesday at the new Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center, where he's housed. His confidence is motivated by a desire to be with a young son, and bolstered, he said, by the center's skills training and respect from the staff.

"They really care," he said. "They want to help you. This place, they're definitely more focused on going home than just doing time. They're trying to prepare you and give you the necessary skills to succeed once you get home and not come back, instead of just sticking you in a cell." Read the entire QCOnline story.

Cloaked under the description of “privacy” legislation, a package of bills under consideration in Springfield takes solid aim at two of the state’s key economic performers — small businesses and the burgeoning tech industry in Illinois.

These bills include complex compliance regulations, which would apply to businesses of all sizes, but would place an enormous burden on small businesses statewide.

The “Right to Know” bill (House Bill 2774) would require any business with a website — even a local flower shop or pizza parlor — to draft privacy policies longer and more confusing than anything required by existing law and to create new IT systems — at best, a complex and expensive undertaking; at worst, impossible to implement — to respond to consumer requests under threat of liability. Read the opinion piece in SJ-R.

Budget – Lack of progress
No progress on Illinois budget; Moody’s warns Illinois of further downgrades. While the Illinois House has held a series of “pro forma” hearings on the budgetary requests and needs of Illinois state agencies, there are no State budget numbers for FY17 or FY18. FY17 is ending on June 30, 2017, without a written budget, and FY18 will start on July 1, 2018. Under State law and the Constitution of Illinois, the General Assembly is mandated to approve a balanced budget that will guide State spending for the approaching fiscal year. The Constitution requires that this budget not commit to spend more money than is expected to come in during the fiscal year. The legislature did not fulfill this mandate for FY17, and is not making progress to do this for FY18. As March 2017 ended, Illinois had more than $12 billion in unpaid bills on file with or under the supervision of the Office of the Comptroller of Illinois.
Gov. Bruce Rauner is moving ahead with plans to make the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum a separate state agency.

Rauner will issue an executive order Friday making the ALPLM a standalone facility, an idea first floated three years ago by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Rauner's order will also place the remaining functions of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency under the Department of Natural Resources.
Cardinals Opening Day against the Chicago Cubs is on the horizon, which is something most baseball fans can all look forward to. But there is something else I look forward to happening, and that is for both Democrats and Republicans to work together and approve a balanced state budget.

The Illinois General Assembly held its version of Opening Day on January 11, 2017 when all 118 representatives and 59 senators took the oath of office, marking the first day of business for the new legislature following the November election. It was a fresh start, a new year, and a real opportunity to accomplish what many promised to do after the election – pass a balanced budget. Yet here we are today, halfway through the season we call ‘session’ and the legislature has accomplished little to brag about in the record books except more losses and less victories for the taxpayers. Read more by Rep. Charlie Meier.

Reps Olsen, Winger, Bellock & McDermed joined the
Governor and Simon Wiesenthal Center to announce
the expansion of anti-hate education in Illinois.
Governor Bruce Rauner announced today the State of Illinois will work with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to expand anti-hate education to Illinois students. This is part of Governor Rauner’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism and other hate crimes in Illinois.

“As Simon Wiesenthal and others frequently said, ‘For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.’ We’re here because we’re doing something. Illinois will not stay silent in the face of hate, bigotry and persecution,” Governor Rauner said. “Illinois is a leader in anti-hate education, and we will work with organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center to continue to lead by example.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center today presented Governor Bruce Rauner with its 2017 Digital Terrorism and Hate Report at the State Capitol. He is the first Midwestern governor to be presented with the report.

"The Simon Wiesenthal Center is grateful for Governor Rauner taking a leadership position today, in supporting our ongoing efforts to combat racism, anti-Semitism and extremism, especially on social media." said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, and founder of the Digital Hate and Terrorism Project, twenty two years ago.  "The Simon Wiesenthal Center's Midwest Director, Alison Pure-Slovin, has already begun to train facilitators for our new Students Tools for Tolerance program that will empower young people to deal with the tsunami of online hate. We look forward to working with Governor Rauner and Secretary of Education Beth Purvis to educate our children on the perils of social media.”

Earlier this month, Governor Rauner unveiled a four-part initiative to combat the rise in anti-Semitism and hate crimes both in Illinois and around the country. His directives include:

  • Strengthening Illinois’ hate crime law to prevent and prosecute hate crimes targeting specific religions
  • Improving law enforcement training to properly identify, investigate and prosecute hate crimes
  • Expanding K-12 education to combat hate
  • Prohibiting state contracts with companies that boycott Israel

As consumers, when we walk into a store we have many options, not only in the products we choose but in the brands of those products. As taxpayers, we rarely get that option. As a state, Illinois spends 3.7 times the national average on our non-Medicaid clients, but we have one of the largest numbers of low-need individuals in costly nursing homes. Spending more money hasn’t resulted in better services or better quality of life for the people that need them.

The Illinois Department on Aging has developed a new program that will improve the way Illinois serves seniors not eligible for Medicaid while saving the state money. The Community Reinvestment Program allows the state to maintain funding at 2 times the national average for seniors not eligible for Medicaid while addressing the projected 57 percent increase in our aging population. Read more by Rep. Mark Batinick.

State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, was honored Monday by a group of veterans on behalf of her late Vietnam-veteran father, as well as thanked for a bill she introduced to help aging veterans and other seniors.

The presentation took place as Rep. McCombie was holding "traveling office hours" with residents at Colona City Hall.

The local veterans presented her with a T-shirt commemorating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as well as a Vietnam service coin. Rep. McCombie's father, John "Jack" Reagan, served two tours of duty in Vietnam, beginning in 1967. He died in 2012.

Rep. McCombie was also thanked for her bill, introduced last month, that would raise the income limit for eligibility for the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption, which offers seniors a reduced property-tax bill. Read more.
Members frustrated by the Majority's unwillingness to address the budget impasse or reforms, called for immediate action. Here's what several members had to say:

Leader Jim Durkin: "Stop this insanity. For too long, the majority party has shirked their responsibilities – whether its raising the income tax under the guise that it would pay down old  bills and put people back to work – or passing reckless unbalanced budgets year after year.

Simply raising taxes and increase spending without any reforms didn’t work then - and it won’t work now.

We need to actually reduce spending and demand property tax relief and include reforms to grow jobs and our economy."

Rep. Joe Sosnowski (Rockford): “One thing we cannot do is pass an unbalanced budget that includes tax increases and no responsible reforms that provide taxpayer relief. We can bring manufacturing jobs back to the Rockford area and other parts of the state by insisting that economic reforms be part of any final budget agreement.”

Rep. Tony McCombie (Savanna): “So as we return to Springfield today, I urge my colleagues to resist the failed attempts of the past. No more unbalanced budgets. No more tax increases. Let's start fresh and put aside the political rhetoric and work together! Together we can balance a budget AND take on the major issues facing our state. Together we can make Illinois a growth state and one of the best in the nation.”

Rep. Ryan Spain (Peoria): “ is simply not acceptable to kick this can down the road by passing tax increases without meaningful cost reforms.  That’s not what any of us were sent here to do - we were sent here to fix the problems.”

Once again, Leader Jim Durkin called for action on the state budget and implementation of reforms. "We're ready to work.  We were ready in January and ready now – but we can't do it alone." Watch the video:

Budget – Pension Reform
House Republicans offer comprehensive pension reform proposal and CPS relief. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin today called on Speaker Michael Madigan and the House Democrats to join the House Republicans in passing comprehensive pension reform that would provide significant savings for taxpayers and $215 million to the Chicago Public Schools for a one time pension parity payment.
Marker is located on the grounds of the Savanna public
library on the SE corner of Madison & Third Streets. 
State Representative Tony McCombie honored Helen Scott Hay, a trailblazing nurse from Savanna, in a speech on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives.

“In honor today of National Women’s Month I want to take a moment to recognize an incredible women from Savanna, IL, Helen Scott Hay.” said Rep. McCombie. “She was a nurse who devoted her life to helping other people by teaching in the nursing profession, serving in the Red Cross during World War I and training nurses all over the world!”

After her work with the Red Cross, Helen Scott Hay moved back to her hometown of Savanna where she continued to serve the community in various ways – even as principal of Savanna High School. Before Helen Scott died in 1932 after a full and meaningful life devoted to helping others, she exercised her right to vote.  Read more.

Rep. Jimenez with Computer Banc Executive
Director David Fowler
Computer Banc is teaming up with State Representative Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, other area lawmakers, and state officials and agencies to help improve children’s access to digital literacy tools. The pilot program aims to repurpose surplus government computers to provide children low cost learning tools for education readiness both at school and at home. Rep. Jimenez (R-Leland Grove) said she is excited to work with Computer Banc on its idea to get more computers to schools at a low cost and help children access vital technology.
Read the rest of the story.
"If Illinois is ever to achieve to its potential, it must effect dramatic change."

Illinois is badly trailing the leading states in job growth and lower unemployment.

A U.S. Department of Labor report last week had modestly good news for much of the country. A handful of states saw a significant drop in their unemployment rates, while 28 states recorded sizable gains in jobs, from January 2016 to January 2017. In fact, 28 states could boast of notable employment gains, ranging from Minnesota's 1.1 percent (32,300 jobs) to Idaho's 4 percent (27,500 jobs).

Not mentioned was Illinois. Read more.

Taxes – Property Tax Burden
With one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, property tax relief must be priority. Speaking at a press conference Tuesday at the Capitol, State Rep. Mark Batinick and his House Republican colleagues drew attention to the number one issue for many Illinois homeowners: the need for property tax relief.
When State Representative Keith Wheeler heard the cost to translate the Illinois General Assembly's website into one other language could be as high as $1.5 million, he knew he could find a better solution. One that was significantly less expensive and more inclusive.

Using a free internet tool he set up a translated version of the website for several different languages. Anyone with access to the internet can now access a translated version of in any of the most common languages spoken in Illinois simply by clicking on the links below:

Spanish Español
Arabic عربي               
Hindi  हिन्दी      
Chinese (Simplified) 中文简体               
Chinese (Traditional) 中文繁體                
Japanese 日本語 
Korean 한국어             
Russian Русский 
French Français    
German Deutsch             
Italian Italiano           
Polish Polski        
Greek  Ελληνικά            

Budget – COGFA Report
COGFA reduces State revenue forecast by $657 million. Many State tax revenues streams are earmarked for general funds used to fund key budget areas such as education, public safety, and social services. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, the General Assembly’s nonpartisan budget forecasting arm, reported to the legislature this week on trends in State revenues that will affect the reminder of FY17, ending June 30, 2017, as well as the approaching FY18 (starting July 1, 2017). COGFA uncovered patterns of modest year-over-year gains, or even declines, in many categories of revenue that are closely tied to overall State economic activity. Areas of weak or absent revenue growth included individual income taxes, corporate income taxes, sales taxes, public utility taxes, cigarette taxes, and corporate franchise taxes.
Legislation introduced by state Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, enabling construction on existing nuclear power plants has passed unanimously out of the House Energy Committee.

Since 1987, Illinois law has prohibited the construction of new nuclear plants as well as any necessary improvements on existing plants. Rep. McCombie's district includes Exelon's Quad Cities Generating Station north of Cordova. Read more.

Rep. Avery Bourne said Thursday there is renewed urgency for the House to stop delaying action on her bill to ensure that state employees will be paid even without a budget in place.

At a Statehouse news conference, Bourne, R-Raymond, said the Democrat-controlled House should act now that Attorney General Lisa Madigan is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to decide if workers can be paid without an appropriation by the General Assembly.

"This bill will ensure state employee pay and make sure state employees and their families are no longer used as political pawns," Bourne said. "We feel our legislation is the best approach to avert a government shutdown, to ensure that vital state operations continue, and to make sure state employees continue to be paid for their work. This issue is much too important to stall any longer." Read more.
In 1922, just two years after women were given the right to vote, Lottie Holman O'Neill was the first woman elected to the Illinois State legislature.  She continued to serve in the Illinois House and Senate for 40 years.

Two years later, in 1924, Florence Fifer Bohrer, daughter of Governor Fifer, was the first woman elected to the Illinois Senate.

Floy Clements of Cook County became the first African-American woman to be elected to the Illinois House in 1958.
Governor Rauner – Medicaid Proposal
Gov. Bruce Rauner makes major Medicaid proposal. The proposal to increase the percentage of Medicaid medical cases that move through “managed care” was unveiled on Monday, February 27. The state’s chief executive called for expanding existing Medicaid managed care programs to cover 80% of Illinois’ three million Medicaid patients. This would mark a major increase in managed care from the current percentage of nearly 67%. In Medicaid managed care, private insurance firms serve as “gatekeepers” for treatments, performing a role similar to insurance firms that manage groups of families that receive employment-based health care.
AFSCME – Possible labor action
AFSCME announces results of strike authorization vote. AFSCME, the labor union that represents 38,000 Illinois employees, states that 81% of the workers who participated in a recent advisory ballot voted to authorize a possible strike.

A key advisor to Governor Bruce Rauner, General Counsel Dennis Murashko, called the vote to authorize a strike “an attack on our state’s hardworking taxpayers and all those who rely on crucial services provided every day.”
Big hair. Big budget deficits by government. Big, flamboyant designs for buildings.
That helps to explain how the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop came to be. Opened in 1985 as the State of Illinois Center under then-Gov. Thompson, the postmodern glass and steel behemoth belongs to a period known for excess.

Some see beauty in the 1.2 million square-foot structure with a stunning 16-story atrium. Others see a beast, with an interior that feels like the inside of a pinball machine. We see an architectural fascination, for better or worse, that sadly is too expensive and inefficient for Illinois taxpayers to maintain. And they might not have to do so for much longer.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan suggested Friday he is willing to go along with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s long-stated desire to sell the 1.2 million square-foot structure that sits on an entire city block. Read more.
Governor’s Budget Address
Governor Rauner delivers budget address to General Assembly. Speaking to a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate on Wednesday, Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his annual Budget Address, outlining his priorities and introducing his third balanced budget in as many years to be considered by lawmakers.

Saying “We must think anew and act anew,” the Governor presented a balanced budget that focuses on the future. It invests in Illinois’ future with record funding for education, transforms our pension system, and makes structural changes to improve our jobs climate.
Governor Bruce Rauner opened his remarks to the Illinois General Assembly with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "We must think anew and act anew."

After which he delivered his Budget Address, outlined his priorities and introduced his third balanced budget in so many years to be considered by lawmakers. Learn more about the Governor's budget through the links below:

Video of the Budget Address
Budget Book

State Rep. Tom Demmer has filed a package of bills and constitutional amendments designed to fix a broken state government system.

The Dixon Republican collectively calls the proposed reforms the Get Government Back on Track package.

Demmer said he worked with his staff to write the four bills and two constitutional amendments. The package was assembled in an effort to get bipartisan support, he said.

"It's probably too early in the process to assess that support, but I think there are a lot of items that both parties can agree on," Demmer said. "There's a logjam in the process, and the idea is to get multiple options for bringing good ideas to fruition." Read more.

A Republican State Representative has introduced a bill that would require inmates with financial resources to pay for their own defense if they’re charged with committing a crime while behind bars. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner quickly said he supports the bill.

The legislation is in response to a WGN Investigates report that found Drew Peterson’s court-appointed legal team charged Illinois taxpayers $264,000 to defend the former Bolingbrook cop. Peterson was convicted of plotting from prison to hire a hit man to kill Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. Glasgow was the prosecutor who put Peterson in prison for killing his third wife Kathleen Savio.

“Taxpayers are on the hook too easily for inmate legal bills,” Rauner said in a statement to WGN. “In a time when financial resources are tight across state government, there are better uses for the more than $200,000 the state is paying to defend Drew Peterson.” Read more.
State Government – State Employee Pay
Bipartisan bill would protect employee pay. With Illinois continuing to operate without a budget, the paychecks of Illinois state employees are coming under threat. HB 2803, sponsored by Rep. Avery Bourne and more than two dozen House colleagues, would protect these paychecks while State employees are on the job. The bill would provide for a continuing appropriation for each State agency to meet personnel expenditures for each payroll period without a conventional budget. The measure has been referred to the House Rules Committee.
Ryan Spain was sworn in as State Representative of the 73rd District in January 2017, following the retirement of State Representative David Leitch.

A lifelong Peorian, Spain attended District 150 schools and is a Richwoods High School alumnus.  He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a double degree in political science and speech communication.  Spain also holds an MBA from Bradley University.

In April 2007, Spain was elected to the City Council as the youngest at-large member in Peoria history.   He is currently employed at OSF Healthcare System as the Vice President of Economic Development.  Spain and his wife Ashley have a three-year old daughter named Vivienne. Read more.
Caterpillar Inc.
Caterpillar to move headquarters from Peoria to Chicago. The earthmoving giant, headquartered in Peoria for more than 90 years, announced plans this week to move its corporate headquarters to the Chicago area. The move is expected to affect only about 300 of the 12,000 Caterpillar employees in the Peoria area, with most of the firm’s engineering, production, and back-office staff remaining in Peoria. Caterpillar’s chief executive officer and his personal staff will, however, vacate their headquarters office in the central Illinois city. The transfer is expected to be substantially completed before the end of the 2017 calendar year.
Governor Bruce Rauner’s Illinois School Funding Reform Commission today approved a framework that allows members of the General Assembly to create a new school funding formula.

“Illinois is another step closer to fixing our broken school funding system,” Governor Rauner said. “I applaud the Commission members for putting politics aside to advance a bipartisan framework that can serve as an immediate roadmap for legislation. The framework ensures all public school children in Illinois receive equitable funding, no matter where they live.  We look forward to working with members of the General Assembly to quickly resolve the outstanding issues identified in the report with the hope of enacting a bipartisan school funding reform package as soon as possible.”
Governor Bruce Rauner recently announced that Illinois families have claimed more than $1.7 million in life insurance with the help of Illinois' Life Policy Locator Service. The free service helps families find a deceased person's lost life insurance policies and annuities. Since July 1' 2016 the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) recovered more than $1.7 million for Illinois families.
State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) was shocked to learn recently that it is not against the law to share or sell video that depicts a child committing suicide. The DuPage County lawmaker took steps to criminalize that practice today with the filing of HB 825 in Springfield.

“Just a few weeks ago, a 12-year-old from Georgia livestreamed her own suicide on social media and the video was widely shared by people in the days following the incident,” said Breen. “A few days prior to that, a 14-year old from Florida also livestreamed her suicide from the bathroom of her home and that video went viral. But our brave law enforcement officers have no tools to stop people who further victimize these children by distributing their suicide videos. We have to do everything we can to keep kids from taking their own lives, and the viral nature of these videos only promotes others to consider suicide.” Read more.

It's not an overstatement to say that the economic success of our state, and of our citizens, hinges on our progress toward a healthy state public education system. Our next generation of business leaders is entering kindergarten today. The schools they attend must prepare them with the skills they need to complete the postsecondary degrees and credentials that employers demand.

I saw this need firsthand at CDW, even though nearly two-thirds of our co-workers had a four-year college degree. As a result, we invested in specialized training for thousands of employees, simply because they did not have the background in math and technology needed to sell, maintain and configure hardware and software. Read the rest of the opinion piece by John Edwardson in Crain's.

State of the State Address
Governor Rauner optimistic about the State of the State. In his third annual State of the State Address, Governor Bruce Rauner indicated that he is optimistic about the future of Illinois and used the opportunity to talk about Illinois’ accomplishments, as well as the work that still lies ahead.

The Governor recognizes the state’s challenges, but with great challenges comes great opportunity. He is optimistic these challenges can be solved by working together to improve the future of Illinois. He discussed the administration’s accomplishments including ethics reform, record education funding, job creation and making government more efficient. While much work lies ahead, we build on the bipartisan agreement that change to the system needs to occur with passing a truly balanced budget.
At 7:30 PM on Thursday night, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit to stop state worker pay by the end of February. House Republicans were disappointed by her action and question the timing since a bipartisan solution is currently being negotiated.

Rep. Avery Bourne
“The recent court filing from Attorney General Lisa Madigan can only be described as putting politics over people. This politically-motivated action is the same kind of Chicago-style politics that the Madigans too often employ. At a meeting I attended just this morning, a comment was made that, ‘as soon as deals in Illinois are close to done, someone always tries to blow it up.’ While the Senate has been negotiating and making progress towards a bipartisan budget deal, Madigan chose to instead disrupt state employee pay in an attempt to force a shutdown of state government, crippling vital government services and endangering families who rely on them. Attorney General Lisa Madigan should immediately denounce these hardball political tactics and stand with state employees and those who rely on state services.”
On Wednesday, Governor Rauner delivered his third state of the state address.

You can watch the video of the address or read the speech.

Below is the reaction from several members of the Illinois House Republican Caucus after listening to the Governor's address.
Voters in the 90th House District in general, and the Sauk Valley in particular, have been aware of the leadership talents and aspirations of youthful state Rep. Tom Demmer for a while now.

Demmer, 30, a Dixon Republican, first won election to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2012 at the age of 26, and he took the oath for his third term this month.

Before that, he served on the Lee County Board and held other positions of leadership in the Dixon community, where he works as director of strategic planning at KSB Hospital. He studied communications and politics while in college and served as a White House intern in 2006. Read the rest of the Sauk Valley editorial.

At a recent meeting, one of my colleagues took the chance to apologize to the rest of the House Republican Caucus by saying: "I am sorry. Most of you have no idea what it is like to truly be a state representative, because every two years more of your rights and responsibilities are stripped away by the speaker's House Rules."

We are supposed to be a representative democracy, where all Illinois residents from every House district are represented equally. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Every two years, the people of Illinois elect representatives from 118 districts across the state to serve as their voice in Springfield. Once sworn in, these representatives have the opportunity to take two important votes.

The first is to elect a speaker of the House, which typically goes to the leader of the majority party.

The second important vote, which occurs two or three weeks later, is to adopt a set of procedural rules to govern the House for the subsequent two years.

For 32 of the last 34 years, those rules have been drafted in a manner that consolidates control with one individual - Speaker Michael Madigan - allowing him to circumvent our representative democracy and make the House subject to the power of one. Read Rep. Andersson's opinion-piece in its entirety in SJ-R.
General Assembly – House Republican Leadership
New House Republican Leadership team takes on the serious challenges facing Illinois. Formation of a new House Republican Caucus leadership team was made necessary by the retirement of many members of the 99th General Assembly. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin worked with his colleagues to name members from both the Chicago metropolitan area and Downstate Illinois. The new leaders of the House Republican Leadership team, announced on Wednesday, January 17, are:
  • Deputy Leader Patti Bellock;
  • Deputy Leader Dan Brady;
  • Assistant Leader Norine Hammond;
  • Assistant Leader Chad Hays;
  • Assistant Leader Michael McAuliffe;
  • Assistant Leader Bill Mitchell;
  • Assistant Leader David Reis;
  • Assistant Leader Mike Unes; and 
  • Caucus Chair Tom Demmer.
The fourth Saturday in January is designated at
Eagle Day in Illinois
Every winter, Illinois presents visitors with the opportunity to see more than 3,100 bald eagles in their natural habitat - more wintering American bald eagles, in fact, than in any other state outside Alaska. The first eagles of the season are spotted in Illinois in December and remain in residence until they migrate back north in March, with January and February the optimal time for visitors to see eagles.

To accommodate visitors who want to take advantage of the opportunity to experience the bald eagles' majesty and glory, towns and parks across much of the state will host specially planned eagle observation programs and exhibits throughout the prime-viewing season. For anyone interested in American history, bird-watching and the environment, bald eagle season in Illinois is a not-to-be-missed opportunity.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and other Republican lawmakers are making a second run at selling and demolishing the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, which they say could add hundreds of millions of dollars to state and local coffers.

The state legislature's GOP leaders, Sen. Christine Radogno and Rep. Jim Durkin, are once again introducing legislation that would allow the state to sell the 16-story, 1.2 million-square-foot structure and move state workers to leased space in other buildings, Durkin said.

The revised plan comes with conceptual renderings of a redeveloped site where the Helmut Jahn-designed building now stands—including one showing a 1,700-foot tower, which would become the city's tallest, on the site.

Rauner's plan faces several big hurdles, starting with the need for legislation just to begin the formal process of seeking a sale of the Thompson Center.

Renewed GOP efforts come more than a year after Rauner first announced plans in late 2015 to try to sell the building to a developer that would likely demolish it and replace it with one or more large structures on the full-block site. But that effort never even made it to a vote in the Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly. Read more in Crain's.

Governor Bruce Rauner today announced Illinois has made significant progress in bringing high-speed Internet to more schools and students statewide through the Illinois Classroom Connectivity Initiative this past year. The EducationSuperHighway’s 2016 “State of the States” annual report on K-12 broadband connectivity showed 83 percent of Illinois school districts now meet the minimum connectivity goal of 100 kbps per student, which is a significant jump from 71 percent at this time last year.
Heads up, Gmail users: a new phishing attack is making the rounds and it's fooling even technically-savvy, security-conscious users.

The ruse aims to steal usernames and passwords for Gmail and other services, and "is being used right now with a high success rate," according to Mark Maunder, CEO of WordPress security plugin Wordfence, who described the campaign in detail. Like other phishing attacks, this one starts with an email. Instead of a random person, the email may appear to have been sent by someone you know, and it may include an image of an attachment you recognize from the sender.

"You click on the image, expecting Gmail to give you a preview of the attachment. Instead, a new tab opens up and you are prompted by Gmail to sign in again. You glance at the location bar and you see in there," Maunder wrote.

Once you sign in, the attackers have full access to your account. Read the rest of the story by PC Magazine.