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.
Sponsors of a new bill to make voter registration automatic with issuance of Illinois driver’s licenses say it fulfills federal standards for proving voter eligibility and protects against fraud.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the state's first attempt at automatic voter registration (AVR) over questions about fraud and federal compliance.

But the chief co-sponsor of the new legislation, state Rep. Mike Fortner, R-West Chicago, wrote in an op-ed that his bill "requires the applicant to attest to their eligibility to vote, as is required by the National Voter Registration Act and used by all other states that have (automatic voter registration)."

With automatic voter registration gaining momentum in recent years, we decided to look into Fortner’s claim to see whether states that have authorized AVR do in fact require applicants to attest to their eligibility to vote. Read more from PolitiFact Illinois.
100th General Assembly Convenes
Illinois House members take oath of office, elect leadership. The 100th General Assembly will be the legislative body that celebrates the bicentennial of Illinois as a state. Each General Assembly is elected for a two-year period, and the 100th General Assembly will serve Illinois in our state’s 199th year (2017) and in our 200th year (2018). House members have already filed more than 450 bills for the new General Assembly to consider.
Governor Bruce Rauner today convened the first meeting of the Illinois Bicentennial Commission and unveiled the official Bicentennial logo at the Old State Capitol. The co-chairs of the Bicentennial Commission were also announced.

“From Kaskaskia to Vandalia and now Springfield, this has been a long time coming, and I am honored that you can be a part of this effort to honor our past while paving the way for our future,” Governor Rauner said. “From our rich history to our rich soil Illinois has changed over the last two centuries but our focus is still much the same. We’re still deeply rooted and invested in our children’s education, moving Illinois forward through innovation and technology and working together to make our great state the best place to live in the country.”

Ten new members attended their first session today in the Illinois House of Representatives. Here's news about a few of them:

Q&A: Newly inaugurated Rep. Ryan Spain discusses priorities
Ryan Spain was sworn in Wednesday afternoon to the state House, replacing longtime Rep. David Leitch, who retired.

Swanson prepares for swearing-in ceremony
When Lt. Col. Dan Swanson enters the Illinois General Assembly for the first time Wednesday, he won't lack for work to do.

State Representative Lindsay Parkhurst (R-Kankakee) today was sworn in to the Illinois House of Representatives officially marking the beginning of the historic 100th General Assembly.

Newly-minted State Representative Dave Severin (R-Benton) says he is excited and humbled at the opportunity to serve the citizens of southern Illinois in the Illinois House of Representatives. An inauguration ceremony took place Wednesday morning on the campus of the University of Illinois Springfield, where Severin and 117 other state representatives took the oath of office.

On January 1, 2017, 191 new laws were enacted in Illinois. Many of these new laws were covered extensively in the press. What you may not have heard about were some very good bills that did not become law because there were not permitted to be considered by the legislature.

More than 6,000 bills were introduced in the last legislative session and for a myriad of reasons many did not make it out of committee or failed on the House floor. But there were several pieces of legislation that were denied a public hearing by the House Rules Committee controlled by Illinois House Speaker Madigan and we think you should know about them:

Red light ticket right to due process
House Bill 4041
This legislation allows for due process of a red light camera ticket by allowing a vehicle owner to contest the ticket and also includes a provision that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the violation occurred.
Budget – December 2016 Revenues Again Fall Short
COGFA report continues dismal State revenue picture. The report by the Illinois General Assembly’s nonpartisan budget office covers State revenues for December 2016. Although 2016’s final month contained most of the yearend shopping season, State revenues once again fell significantly short of the State’s cash outflows and spending commitments. Net Illinois general funds revenues submitted to the State in December 2016 totaled $2,581 million, down $257 million from the $2,838 million received from the same sources in December 2015 twelve months earlier. These revenues continued to fall far short of the numbers required to maintain the long-term operations of the State.
As Don Moffitt considered whether to run for another term in the Illinois House of Representatives last fall, he took a ride in a combine with his son and two grandchildren under a clear night sky that made him realize something.

"I really need more times like this."

Spending such time with his family is partly why the representative for the 74th District decided not to seek another term after spending nearly 24 years, or 12 two-year terms, in the Legislature. Moffitt also decided to leave Jan. 10, 2017, because he had seen the grade separations in Galesburg - two overpasses and one underpass - come to completion (or nearly so) as he intended.

One walk through Moffitt's district office in Galesburg reveals why the rural Gilson resident found it to be such a difficult decision - even more difficult than when he decided to run for the Legislature for the first time in 1992, he said. More than 20 shovels from various groundbreaking ceremonies hang from his office walls, along with photos of Moffitt meeting with politicians Rudy Giuliani, Dick Cheney and a young Sen. Barack Obama, just to name a few.

While it's still "a thrill" to meet such politicians, the feeling does not compare to that of meeting firefighters and emergency responders who serve their communities every day, said Moffitt. Read more.

The human trafficking of children for sex in Illinois happens in every small town and big city throughout the state. In 2016, DCFS investigated 143 calls to the hotline for allegations of Human Trafficking. Many of the reports involved children being victimized within blocks of where they live.

Trafficking is not just an issue that happens to people in other countries. The United States is a source and transit country, and is also considered one of the top destination points for victims of child trafficking and exploitation. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 U.S. States; anyone can be trafficked regardless of race, class, education, gender, age, or citizenship when forcefully coerced or enticed by false promises (source: It’s important to remember that anyone under the age of 18 involved in this crime is a victim.