Week in Review for 2/16/15 - 2/20/15

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.

“Even after we solve this fiscal year’s crisis, we will still be left with a budget hole of $6.2 billion for the coming fiscal year,” the newly-elected Governor told lawmakers.  “Waste and inefficiency are rampant in our current system,” he reported.  “To be compassionate, we must be competitive.”

The State’s budgetary challenges are no secret, but under Gov. Rauner, these challenges are actually being acknowledged.  For the first time in a decade, the Governor and General Assembly are starting the budgetary process grounded by the reality of matching revenues with expenditures while paying our required obligations.  Gov. Rauner has set a revenue estimate of $32 billion with a clear directive to make that number work.

The Governor’s introduced FY16 budget is a sobering look, but one that is built on several core priorities: public safety, education and paying our bills.  The General Assembly is beginning to review this budget and its impact on Illinoisans and will soon be making recommendations as to our shared priorities.  There are hard times to come, but in the end, the goal of turning around Illinois must be accomplished.

Rep. Avery Bourne
State Representative Avery Bourne (R-Litchfield) was sworn in Wednesday morning 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 Wednesday, February 18, on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives surrounded by her family, friends, and colleagues.

“I can’t begin to describe what an honor it is to take on the job of serving as State Representative for the people of the 95th district,” Bourne said. “I’m going to hit the ground running today, and work as hard as I can to bring the values of the people of Macoupin, Christian, Montgomery and Madison Counties to the Capitol. It will be the privilege of my life to serve the people of my district and the people of Illinois.”

For more information on Representative Bourne, please visit www.repbourne.com.

Caterpillar, Inc. to build new, expanded world headquarters in Peoria.  On hand for the announcement of Caterpillar’s new world headquarters in Peoria, Illinois House Republicans praised the Caterpillar decision and commitment to retaining their headquarters in Illinois.

The decision to build their new headquarters was announced on Friday, February 20, at the Caterpillar Visitors 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’s 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.

“This is the biggest economic development investment in Central Illinois in my lifetime,” said Rep. Unes.  “Caterpillar has re-committed itself to our region and the economic development implications will be long-lasting and far reaching.

Caterpillar Inc., traded on the New York Stock Exchange, is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  In 2014, the firm posted worldwide revenue of $55.6 billion and net income of $5.7 billion.  The firm’s headquarters oversees more than 125,000 employees in facilities located on six continents, including 3,200 employees in downtown Peoria.  Caterpillar’s yellow-and-black logo leads a wide variety of global brands that are stamped on fixed and mobile machinery used in construction, power generation, railroading, and many off-road uses.  

Caterpillar has previously demonstrated its commitment to Peoria by opening its Visitors Center  in the Peoria Riverfront complex.  The firm has had a presence in the Greater Peoria area since 1910.  The heritage and hospitality center, which opened in 2012, carries visitors from an overview of Caterpillar’s history to an appreciation of the machines it is making today and plans to design in the future for customers around the globe.        

Cold weather 
Record cold temperatures reported in Chicago, other regions of Illinois.  Repeated recordings of below-zero weather were reported this week throughout the State, with temperatures as low as -8° F. at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Thursday, February 19.  Warming centers are operated for challenged people by municipalities, including the city of Chicago and by private sector entities such as the Salvation Army and the United Way.

Illinois residents are urged to monitor the health and safety of their neighbors, and to work with them should trouble appear.  Conditions of extreme cold are also dangerous to the life and safety of companion animals.

County Fairs – Economic Impact 
Study shows county fairs have big economic impact.  A new study, released Friday, February 13, shows that Illinois county fairs annually generate $170 million in money directly spent by fair participants and attendees.  The total sum was estimated after distributing nearly 5,000 brief questionnaires to members of these groups.  To this sum should be added additional monies raised by the “multiplier effect” of monies spent within Illinois boundaries, particularly in rural areas.  In many cases a dollar spent in an Illinois county seat or fairground community will turn over two or three times before leaving Illinois.

The study, overseen by the Extension Department of the University of Illinois, was carried out in the summer of 2014.  Many of the questionnaires were distributed by 4-H youth undergoing informal training in STEM data-gathering and techniques.  In the survey, many fairgoers and fair participants reported spending significant sums outside the festival grounds.  Products purchased outside festival grounds included meals, transportation items such as motor fuel, and a variety of retail goods.

Commenting on the study results, a spokesperson for the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs called for an increase in the State’s commitment to Illinois’s 103 rural fairs.  Existing funding sources for county fairs have declined in line with the overall shift of much of Illinois’ voting population to large urban areas.        

Education – PARCC Test Hearing
Illinois House committee to hold hearing on controversial test mandate.  The House Education – School Curriculum and Policies Committee will meet on Wednesday, February 25, to take testimony on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test mandate.  The hearing is scheduled to be held at 4:00 p.m. in Room 114 of the State Capitol.

House members on the 26-person committee are expected to hear concerns from affected parents, teachers, and representatives of school districts.  Many people are opposed to both the new test and to the way it is being implemented here in Illinois.  Educators have raised concerns about inadequate technology, lack of testing infrastructure to match the spaces required to administer the test, overall school funding issues as they intersect with this test mandate, and issues of student preparation for the test.  Procedural challenges include questions of whether this test has been sprung on Illinois school districts, teachers, students, and parents and whether they received adequate warning of this new mandate.

Defenders of the test assert that many notifications of this test mandate went out to school districts.  They further assert that contracts have already been signed to administer the test and that the test is being enforced by a hard mandate from the federal Department of Education.  Sections of federal law direct the Department to withhold major subcategories of federal school aid from the school districts of a state that is not in compliance with nationwide testing mandates.

Concerned parties point out that many of the State’s school districts have experience administering other tests.  These tests are apparently no longer valid under the PARCC mandate.  Although many school districts would like to have agency in choosing between categories of tests to meet their testing mandates, the old tests have been “retired” and the current PARCC mandate does not allow them to do so.  This and other questions are expected to be discussed at the February 25 hearing.        

Fundraising Events
Rep. Mike Tryon introduces bill to clarify legal status of church food fundraisers.  HB 2486, introduced on Wednesday, February 18, carves out exceptions to the current law that imposes regulations on people who prepare food at home and then sell it.  Some readings of current law would give local public health officials the power to inspect the home kitchens of places where food is prepared for fundraising consumption, and to shut down fundraisers.

The new bill would carve out a limited exception to intrusive inspections and shutdowns. It would allow people to make banked goods, and some kinds of jams and jellies, at home.  A religious, charitable, or nonprofit organization could then sell these goods for fundraising purposes.

General Assembly
House starts schedule of spring 2015 hearings.  Under the Rules of the House, all House bills and most amendments are looked at and debated by committees.  Members of these committees have been named previously, but the panels themselves started to meet and hear testimony and remarks from advocates and witnesses this week.  House committees can approve a bill, reject a bill, or hold the bill for further debate.

Potential committee actions are posted in the General Assembly Dashboard prior to each committee hearing and Illinois voters are welcome to follow issues they are interested in.  In some cases, voter-advocates may need to submit a position for or against a bill.  Persons interested in staking out an online position on a posted bill should register on the ILGA Dashboard.  Consult the Dashboard FAQ for further guidance on the registration process.    

Measles – Day Care
Chicago-area measles count notches 14 cases, including 13 at Palatine daycare center. Public health officials do not know how the daycare infants caught the virus; a search is on for the person or persons who infected five infants.  The count of 14 measles cases was released on Tuesday, February 17.  The extremely contagious virus broke out two weeks ago at a day care center located in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

While most Illinois adults are protected from catching measles by the vaccines they have received in the past, the 13 Palatine patients were all under 12 months of age or were not old enough to get a doctor’s approval for these shots.  KinderCare, operator of the daycare center identified as the principal location of the Illinois infant outbreak, has told employees at its 1,900 day care centers nationwide that they must get vaccinated for measles as a condition of being allowed to continue to work in infant rooms.

A major outbreak of measles has broken loose in the United States this winter.  The outbreak has been traced to contacts made between a patient and other visitors to Disneyland in southern California.  At least 141 Disneyland-related infections have been counted nationwide.  The Chicago Sun-Times covers the story.

Right to Try Act
Rep. David Harris introduces the Right to Try Act.  HB 2508 would provide that an eligible patient with a terminal illness who has considered all other treatment options approved by the federal government may obtain and take an unapproved drug.  Unapproved drugs and devices included in this limited carve-out of rights for the terminally ill are limited to those that have successfully completed Phase I of a clinical trial and have not yet been approved for prescription or use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In almost all cases when a drug or medical device shows promising results in preliminary “Phase I” studies, the FDA will require extensive follow-up studies to be done.  These studies, often called “Phase II,” have several goals.  If successful, they gather statistical confirmation that the treatment succeeds, learn more about side effects and contraindications, and learn more about why and how the treatment works so that physicians will learn when and where it should be prescribed and who is helped/not helped by it.  In many cases, Phase II studies last for years.  While Phase II is ongoing, access to a drug or treatment is severely limited – in effect, sharply rationed – by the maker or provider.  Patients and care providers have no right to ask that the drug or device be provided to them.

Many believe we should consider carving out an exception from this bar to allow unlimited access to promising drugs, devices, and treatments for patients who are terminally ill.   Bills like HB 2508 have been approved by referendum in Arizona and enacted in Colorado and Louisiana.

Team Megan
Rep. John Anthony joins Team Megan.  In Coal City, Megan Bugg is battling Stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer.  Her caregivers have begun administering a very challenging round of chemotherapy and her family and 8th-grade classmates are rallying around her in support.  The Coal City community has taken Megan’s fight as an inspiration.  On Thursday, February 19, Representative John Anthony urged his colleagues to join with him on Team Megan as a gesture of support.  

Week in Review
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