Today the House of Representatives honored the memory of three Illinois heroes who died within the last 12 month while in service to our country.

Petty Officer 2nd Class 
Logan S. Palmer 
United States Navy
Logan Stephen Palmer, Petty Officer 2nd Class, 23, of Harristown, IL, passed away on August 21, 2017 while serving his country aboard the USS John S. McCain in the South China Sea.
Illinois transportation, safety and government leaders are at the state Capitol today to honor the life of Illinois Tollway roadway maintenance worker David Schwarz and are calling on Illinois drivers to take the Give Them Distance pledge.

The Give Them Distance pledge launched as part of a statewide effort to emphasize the importance of the Illinois Move Over Law, which was expanded by Governor Bruce Rauner in 2017 and requires drivers to slow down and change lanes safely when approaching any vehicle stopped on the side of the road with lights flashing.
33,703.

That’s how many residents left Illinois last year.

People leave the state for a variety of reasons from weather to career opportunities.

But experts say Illinois’ population loss bucks national trends and is the opposite of what surrounding states are seeing. Here's the story.
CRIMINAL LAW
Governor Rauner proposes major public safety package to reinstate death penalty and extend 72-hour wait to all guns. Gov. Bruce Rauner has asked the Illinois General Assembly to reinstate the death penalty for mass murderers and those who kill law enforcement officers.

The proposal is part of a precedent-setting public safety initiative that the Governor unveiled in an amendatory veto (AV) of House Bill 1468 which also urges legislators to:
Gov. Bruce Rauner today announced that 327 Opportunity Zone census tract recommendations submitted by the State of Illinois have been approved by the U.S. Treasury Department. These zones cover more than 85 counties throughout the state and aim to support the future of Illinois through economic growth and investment.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for communities throughout Illinois,” Rauner said. “These zones include some of the most underserved areas of the state that have the greatest potential for improvement. They represent a broad cross-section of Illinois that includes rural, urban and suburban in-need communities that are ripe for investment and job creation.”
Governor Bruce Rauner today issued a disaster proclamation for nine counties impacted by the Rend Lake Conservancy District water main break. The governor announced the proclamation during a visit to the Williamson County Emergency Operations Center in Marion. He also visited the Rend Lake Conservancy District, where district officials updated him on water restoration.

The proclamation ensures state support for affected communities will continue until all water supply issues are resolved. Counties in the proclamation include: Franklin, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Perry, Saline, Washington, White and Williamson.
State Representative Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) once again rose to speak on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday to address issues related to Southern Illinois University. This time though, Bryant had a much different message.

“Last week, I spoke against a package of bills that attack SIU Carbondale’s campus,” Bryant said. “I didn’t think that this week I would be defending SIU-C against yet another attack, but that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

Bryant went on to say that evidence revealed in an op-ed in today’s Southern Illinoisan make it quite clear that President Dunn is not working for the Carbondale campus, and that he is in fact colluding with officials at SIU Edwardsville to work against it....

...After offering a strong defense of her constituents and the Carbondale campus, Bryant called on Dunn to resign his post as SIU President. Read the rest of the story and watch video of Rep. Bryant's remarks..



PUBLIC HEALTH
Better Care Illinois Behavioral Health Initiative announced. Gov. Bruce Rauner announced this week that Illinois has received federal approval to launch a sweeping $2 billion behavioral health initiative designed to deliver better outcomes for Medicaid beneficiaries suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders.

The Better Care Illinois Behavioral Health Initiative is the culmination of a 30-month long Rauner administration effort to involve state health agencies, legislators and behavioral health organizations in a coordinated plan to help people with disorders that require treatment of the whole person.
State Representative Randy Frese's district is the home of the Quincy Veterans facility. Over the past couple of years it has been in the news because of a deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak. We get his reaction to the situation and also hear how proud he is of the facility.

On the personal side, it’s going to be a busy summer for his family….as he has two daughters getting married, and third daughter who is going to make him a grandfather for the first time….and she’s having twins.


For the past four years as a state legislator, I have watched Democrats introduce bill after bill on the House floor that spends taxpayer money.

In 2015, my first year as an Illinois representative, I repeatedly stood up and asked Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie why we don’t first determine how much taxpayer money we have to spend before we start spending it.
My questions were brushed aside with flippant answers along the lines of “We’ll do that when we actually do a budget.”

Well, I’m still waiting.

That brushoff didn’t sit well with me or my fellow Republican legislators at that time. It still doesn’t and it shouldn’t. Taxpayers should hate it. Budgeting based on how much money we wish we had is how politicians got Illinois into this mess in the first place.

This isn’t some inconsequential issue. Illinois has a balanced budget requirement. The only lever that taxpayers and the minority party have to pull is the revenue estimate that locks in a cap on spending. Doesn’t that make it obvious why House Speaker Michael Madigan and the Democrat caucus have avoided it? No cap, no accountability. Read the rest of Rep. Keith Wheeler's commentary in the Chicago Tribune.

 The sun came up Monday, the day after the deadline for putting constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot — and no, you won’t get to vote this year to end gerrymandering in Illinois. But you knew that.

With the deadline approaching and several versions of the amendment parked in committee, the only signs of life were a few last-minute lawmakers hopping on the bandwagon too late. A version pushed by the reform coalition Change Illinois ended up with 39 sponsors in the Senate — supposedly signaling that it would pass that chamber, if only Senate President John Cullerton would call it for a vote. Which of course wasn’t going to happen. Read the rest of the Tribune Editorial.
Three years ago today, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s attempt to cut its employees’ pension benefits to chip away at a retirement-system debt that’s swelled to almost $11,000 for every man, woman and child.

Since then, Illinois’s credit rating was downgraded to the verge of junk, its bonds have tumbled and its largest city -- Chicago -- was stripped of its investment-grade status by Moody’s Investors Service. And Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-led legislature have made no real progress toward a new plan that doesn’t violate the state constitution’s ban on reducing benefits.

“Illinois failure to address its pension crisis has resulted in further deterioration of the state and cities’ financial condition, exorbitantly high borrowing costs, and an inability to address other critical needs at the state and local level,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a Chicago nonprofit that tracks state and municipal finances. “Time is not your friend when your liabilities are compounding and your revenues are not.” Read the rest of Bloomberg story.
Described as one of the most significant developments in public health in Illinois history, the federal government approval of an Illinois’ 1115 Waiver has set the stage to implement an innovative strategy to improve behavioral health outcomes for Medicaid clients. The new program is called BetterCare Illinois.

The waiver will allow Illinois to use its federal Medicaid match in a more effective manner, which will improve the quality of care to Medicaid populations. Among other strategies, Illinois will now be able to shift from institutional settings to community-based care for Medicaid patients in need of mental health or substance abuse care. 
BUDGET
Revenue numbers published for April 2018. The numbers for State of Illinois revenues were published by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), the nonpartisan budgeting arm of the Illinois General Assembly. COGFA works with the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) and other State agencies to track Illinois general funds revenues on a month-to-month basis. The data gathered by COGFA is reported to the General Assembly annually and is supposed to be used by the House and Senate to adopt a revenue estimate to control spending in the appropriations process.
Lawmakers on Wednesday sparred over a proposal to change the state’s tax structure, with Democrats expressing support for taxing higher earners more than low-income taxpayers while Republicans decried the idea as an attempt at “class warfare” to score political points ahead of the November election.

Changing Illinois’ flat income tax system to what's known as a "graduated" system with different tax rates for different income levels is an idea that hadn't gained much traction during the 15 years Democrats have had control of the General Assembly.

It was a key issue, though, during this year’s Democratic primary for governor and has become a major campaign plank of the party’s nominee, billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker.

Now longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan has thrown his support behind the idea. But his timing, with just days to go before a deadline that prohibits the addition of constitutional amendments to the Illinois ballot less than six months before an election, means voters won’t get to weigh in on the question until at least 2020. The state's existing flat tax system is enshrined in the constitution and can't be changed without voters' approval.

On Wednesday, Republicans said Madigan's timing was no coincidence. Read the rest of the Chicago Tribune story.
With winter finally in the rear-view mirror, Gov. Bruce Rauner is encouraging all drivers and motorcycle enthusiasts to be extra cautious as more bikes start hitting the roads.

Rauner joined motorcycle safety advocates and officials from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) today to kick off Motorcycle Awareness Month and IDOTs annual Start Seeing Motorcycles Campaign.
He comes from the southern most parts of the state of Illinois and he’s very proud of growing up in the district he serves. And, serving is what he is all about….spending over half of his life working in his family’s nursing home facility.

Now he puts that same attitude and enthusiasm into serving the people of the 117th District. Our guest today is State Representative Dave Severin.