Illinois unemployment rate drops. The Illinois unemployment rate dropped from 4.9% to 4.8% in December 2017. The declining jobless rate to close out calendar year 2017 was another sign of a stable employment picture in the Land of Lincoln, with Illinois employers supporting an estimated 6,050,900 nonfarm payroll jobs. This marked an increase of 1,500 jobs from the previous month, and an increase of almost 30,000 jobs from December 2016. The new figures were published by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), which tracks and monitors Illinois employment and unemployment.
State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer has refiled his “Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter” which he calls common-sense legislation in reforming the Illinois’ budget process by stopping wasteful spending, promoting a thirty-day payment cycle and requiring the State to make its full pension payment. We’ll talk about the legislation and his expectations of the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly.

We also hear about his time as a legislative assistant in Washington DC and what he has in common with the U.S Speaker of the House, the Pittsburg Steelers star quarterback, and Ginger from Gilligan’s Island.

Illinois is home to world class colleges and universities, yet more and more Illinois students choose to leave our state to continue their education. From 1991-2014, enrollment at Illinois public universities and community colleges has declined by 50,000 students. As the father of a college-age daughter, State Representative Dan Brady knows this ‘brain drain’ can’t continue. As Republican Spokesman on the House Appropriations-Higher Education Committee, Rep. Brady has been working on real solutions that will help us keep our best and brightest here to get their degree and, hopefully, to put their talents to work in our communities.

Rep. Brady has filed HB 4103 which would ensure Illinois high school student with a 3.0 cumulative grade point average or better will be guaranteed admission to a public university in our state. It will also establish a uniform admission process online, allowing Illinois students to apply to all Illinois public universities with one online submission.

We think helping students attain a quality higher education right here in Illinois is vital to our state. Kudos to Rep. Brady for continuing to find ways to make that happen.

Chicago makes the cut to 20 in Amazon’s HQ2 search. and its owner-CEO, Jeff Bezos, have announced their intent to create a second headquarters in addition to Amazon’s current headquarters in Seattle. In late 2017, the firm asked cities in North America to submit plans and proposals for the global marketing firm to initiate a major expansion. Amazon’s stated criteria for selecting their location for potential expansion included a city within an urban area with more than 1 million people and within 45 minutes of an international airport. The presence of mass-transit infrastructure was described as strongly desirable but not essential. The firm stated that it was their intent to create a research, development, and logistics management complex that could support as many as 50,000 jobs.
Charles Dvorak at the St. Louis Olympic Games, 1904
 Next month Illinoisans will cheer on the athletes of Team USA as they represent our nation in the winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. In recent years the nation has pulled for Illinoisan Olympians like Naperville figure skater Evan Lysacek, Chicago basketball stars Candace Parker and Dwyane Wade, hockey stars like Cammi Granato-Ferraro of Downers Grove, and legends like East St. Louis track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Champaign figure skater Bonnie Blair. Most recently, during the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, more than 50 athletes with ties to Illinois competed; and they brought home 22 medals, including 11 golds.
State Representative Tom Bennett of Gibson City talks about his plans for the spring session and the changes in the process he believes are needed in order to accomplish real reform.

We also talk about his travels around his large 106th district, his days as a school teacher, Gospel singing, and time with his grandkids.

As a military veteran Rep. Dan Swanson brings a unique perspective to Springfield. He understands better than most that many of the brave women and men who honorably served their country now find themselves in need of our help. He gets that honor and other circumstances sometimes prevent veterans from asking for assistance. And he is alarmed by the staggering number of veterans who turn to suicide as a solution. Rep. Swanson also knows from his advocacy that proactivity is the best way to get resources in the hands of veterans. So, he is taking action.

Earlier this month, Rep. Swanson filed legislation that provides a mechanism for law enforcement to immediately respond to a missing veteran. Under Swanson’s bill law enforcement can issue a Silver Alert for a missing veteran. Like an Amber alert, the public will be notified in an effort to quickly locate a missing veteran and perhaps save a life.

We think Rep. Swanson’s HB4212 is legislation you should know about.

Read the text of HB4212.

If you are a veteran in crisis or are concerned about one please reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. 

Men building former Highway #4 through Towanda, eventually parts of that highway became
Route 66.  Photo from the Towanda Area Historical Collection, Illinois Digital Archives --
A service of the Illinois State Library and Office of the Secretary of State.
The maps had just been released, but already the grumbling had begun.

In the 1920s, the first map of the proposed federal numbered highway system had been released. The most prominent east-west numbered highways were those ending with in zero. But a few states had been bypassed by every one of the round-numbered highways: a blow to their national prestige.

Some of those states’ representatives took their complaints to the proper authority, and some of the roads were dutifully re-numbered. More states got round-numbered federal highways and Illinois ended up as the hub of the most famous highway in the world: Route 66.
"People are fleeing Illinois. And still, Democratic leaders in Chicago
and Cook County...deny that high taxes, underfunded pensions, government
debt and political dysfunction are the reasons for the exodus..."

While imposing a stiff prison sentence on former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, U.S. District Judge James Zagel contemplated an issue that, just over six years later, continues to debase this state’s prosperity.

“In the United States, we don’t much govern at gunpoint,” Zagel told the courtroom on Dec. 7, 2011. “We require willing and creative cooperation and participation to prosper as a civil society. This happens most easily when people trust the person at the top to do the right thing most of the time, and more important than that, to try to do it all of the time.”

Corruption at the top tears and disfigures the “fabric of Illinois” and is “not easily or quickly repaired,” Zagel said.

Trust in government is essential to civil society — not only governance that is corruption-free but also competent and responsible. Read the rest of the commentary by Tribune Editorial Board member Kristen McQueary.

Revenues up, but overall budget picture clouded by poor retail spending numbers. The December 2017 State revenue report by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) shows that State revenues rose by $438 million over comparable levels in December 2016, an increase of 15.4%. This increase is helping to pay off some of the $8.7 billion backlog of unpaid State bills.

However, the Commission’s economic team has called the General Assembly’s attention to areas of weakness within the revenue numbers. Sales tax receipts declined by 4%, or $34 million, on a year-over-year basis within the overall revenue increase. The poor sales tax numbers were attributed by economists to the continuing challenges faces by participants in the U.S. retail sector.
Photo from the Illinois State Library General Collection, IL Digital Archives.
 A service of the Illinois State Library and Illinois Secretary of State.
London, Osaka, Paris, Rome and Chicago, Illinois. Since the first World’s Fair in 1851, every few years the world has come to one great city to experience the latest in science, culture and entertainment. Twice, the city of Chicago has opened its door to the world and hosted a World’s Fair.

The first was in 1893. Known as the World’s Columbian Exhibition, the 1893 World’s Fair was the second to be held in the United States, following Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exposition. The fair opened in May in 14 Beaux Arts-style “great buildings” and nearly 200 smaller structures, most of which were built specifically for the fair. The white stucco coverings for the buildings; which were designed by such famed architects of the time as Frederick Law Olmstead and Daniel Burnham; combined with the bright lighting used to illuminate the fair at night to give rise to the nickname for the fair’s grounds: the White City.
Illinois’ new Invest in Kids scholarship program — which gives low- to middle-income students opportunities to attend non-public schools that best meet their educational goals — attracted more than $36 million in pledged contributions on Tuesday, Jan. 2, the first day the state began accepting applications, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced today.

Taxpayers can contribute up to $1.3 million to eligible organizations and receive an income tax credit equal to 75 percent of their approved contributions. The state caps total yearly contributions at $100 million.
David Welter discusses his position on the House Energy committee and how having a number of nuclear power plants in his district gives him a unique perspective into the state’s energy needs. In addition the representative from Morris explains that an incident at a local county board meeting when he was still in high school provided the incentive to get in to politics, being elected to that county board at 19 and becoming its chairman at 23.