Week in Review for April 21

House Republicans Call for Independent Redistricting Reform. Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, along with all members of the House Republican Caucus, has filed a resolution demanding an independent redistricting reform solution.

“It is unacceptable that partisan politics involved in the map drawing process have skewed years of election results throughout Illinois,” Durkin said. “We are long overdue for an independent map drawing process that will protect voter rights, create a more transparent process and make legislative races more competitive with more qualified candidates running for office.” 
House Resolution 995shows broad support for maps to be drawn without regard to incumbency and partisanship, and allows voters the opportunity to choose a candidate based on the issues and policies most important to them. Legislative district maps are redrawn every ten years based on the newest census results.

“It is clear that people from both sides of the aisle will not be supporting the current protocol of our inequitable and unfair map-drawing process, making now the time to begin working efficiently towards a new solution to a fair and equitable map across the state,” Durkin said. “A new process will give voters the opportunity to have their own say and involvement in ensuring that the new legislative maps fairly represent each district in Illinois.”

According to a pollfrom the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, 72 percent of Illinois residents, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, support the creation of an independent commission to draw legislative district maps. Based on the current legislative calendar, the deadlines for passage are April 27 in the House and May 3 in the Senate.

Illinois House prepares for final week of consideration for House bills. The House bill voting deadline will come at the end of the final full week of April on Friday, April 27. The final House vote on a House bill is called “Third Reading,” and this date is the Third Reading deadline. April 27 will be the cutoff date for House bills to be favorably considered by the full House in floor debate and sent to the Senate for final passage. Bills that are not passed by the deadline will be sent to the House Rules Committee, which is the primary pathway under the rules of the House to “table” bills that will no longer be considered.

Following the House deadline for consideration of its own bills, the focus will shift toward consideration of Senate bills. The House will reconvene on Tuesday, May 8 to hold committee hearings for testimony and discussion of bills from the Illinois Senate. Both houses of the Illinois General Assemblywill have a four-week period to consider the bills passed by the other chamber and reach final compromises on the difficult issues of 2018. The House and Senate are scheduled to adjourn on Thursday, May 31.

Bryant: Reopening of Murphysboro Facility Means Jobs for Southern Illinois, Increased Public Safety. In November of 2015, State Rep. Terri Bryant joined correctional officers from the Illinois Department of Corrections for a press conference to announce that she had introduced legislation to reopen and repurpose the shuttered Murphysboro correctional facility. Two years and five months later, 20 inmates have been transferred in to the newly reopened Murphysboro Reentry Center.

“This is a big win for Southern Illinois and for the safety of the staff and inmates at Correctional centers across Illinois,” Bryant said. “It has taken a lot of effort, pushing and prodding, and a lot of cooperation between state agencies and all the players involved to get this done. I am proud to be a Murphysboro resident, and I am proud to have fought to reopen this facility to help with prison overcrowding and to help reduce recidivism in our prisons. The facility is expected to support 100 permanent good-paying jobs for residents living in the region.”

Bryant says the re-entry program will be open to minimum security offenders who are 40 years old or younger, and with one to three years left in their sentence.

“If we put someone back on the street again with no skills, no money, no support system, they are likely to reoffend and return to prison," Bryant said. "We cannot afford to support this revolving door any longer. We can’t just keep cycling people through the correctional system. It simply costs too much money. The goal of the re-entry program is to ensure that each inmate that leaves the facility has necessary life skills they will need to get a job and be a productive member of society when they return to the outside.”

The Murphysboro facility is one of three Life-Skills Re-entry Centersslated to open in Illinois, as part of Governor Rauner’s plan to safely reduce the prison population and restructure the state’s criminal justice system. The first Life-Skills Re-entry Center opened in Kewanee, Illinois in February of 2017. The Department is working to launch another Life Skills Reentry Center for females at Logan Correctional Center. Offenders who have one to four years left on their sentence qualify for placement at the Life Skills Re-entry Centers.

“Enjoy Illinois” maintains list of Illinois farmers’ markets. As trees and berries bud and blossom, Illinois residents are beginning to look forward to the first fresh-food supplies appearing in Illinois farmers’ markets. Early foodstuffs for sale in late spring include lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, and many other crops. Depending on local public health regulations, many farmers’ markets sell refrigerated goods such as eggs and fresh meat. Farmers’ market operations will multiply throughout Illinois starting on Tuesday, May 1.

One frequently-updated list of places to buy locally-grown produce and locally-made products can be found at the “Enjoy Illinois” website maintained by the state’s Office of Tourism within the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Money for this Division and website comes from the State’s tax on hotel and motel rooms and does not come from income or sales tax money.

House Republicans tackle Illinois’ teacher shortage. Our children’s education remains a top priority for Illinois House Republicans, which is why they have taken action to address the growing teacher shortage in our state. First and foremost, our members are committed to ensuring highly prepared and effective educators are teaching our children. To do that, Illinois must address the teacher shortage.

To read more about House Republicans’ efforts to address Illinois’ teacher shortage, please visit The Caucus Blog.

Jobless rate dips in March 2018 to lowest rate in more than 10 years. The 4.6% unemployment ratereported for March 2018 by the Illinois Department of Employment signals the lowest rate of joblessness in Illinois since before the Great Recession. Illinois last enjoyed a lower rate of unemployment (4.5%) in January 2007, more than a decade ago.

The Prairie State’s approach toward “full employment” came despite economic challenges that continue to be faced by specific regions and sectors of Illinois. While many facets of Illinois’ economy, such as manufacturing, generated net new jobs last month, other sectors continue to face headwinds. The retail sector, which is classified for employment purposes as part of Trade, Transportation, and Utilities, lost ground in March.

Net growth in manufacturing jobs was an encouraging sign for Illinois. The March 2018 factory sector was up 900 jobs over levels reported by the comparable job count in February 2018, and was up 18,200 jobs over the levels reported in March 2017. Illinois’ physical location as a center of U.S. transportation infrastructure makes Illinois an attractive place to create and maintain manufacturing jobs.

Illinois’ 4.6% jobless rate remains slightly higher than the national average for the same month, which is reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as 4.1%. The Illinois March 2018 jobless rate was reported on Thursday, April 19.

Illinois House approves now Lottery scratch-off game for police programs. A quirk in Illinois law authorizes local police chiefs, if they choose, to issue only one bulletproof vest to police officers; the vests are supposed to last throughout an officer’s career. However, police officers know that trauma vests degrade over time and must be replaced. This raises the question of how replacement vests can be paid for, as these are substantial items of the uniformed clothing of a peace officer.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has sponsored HB 5513to create a new Illinois State Lottery scratch-off ticket game dedicated to police welfare funds. Allowable uses for moneys in the funds are enumerated in the bill. The money can be used for police recognitions and memorials, scholarships for children of police officer killed or injured in the line of duty, and a police bulletproof vest fund.

HB 5513 was discussed and debated by the Illinois House on Wednesday, April 18. The 106-01-0 vote approved the measure and sent it to the Senate for further discussion and debate.

Solid blaze pink hunting gear authorized. Under current law, hunters who wear blaze clothing must wear blaze orange. Many sports shops, though, would like to offer blaze pink hunting gear, much of it meant for female hunters. Studies show that blaze pink is just as visible in hunting conditions as blaze orange. HB 4231, sponsored by Rep. Dave Severin, authorizes hunters in blaze-clothing environments to wear blaze pink. The House debated the measure and voted unanimously for it on Tuesday, April 17, sending the bill to the State Senate for further discussion.

Illinois ranked highly in preparations for health care emergencies. The verdict came in this week’s release of the 2018 National Health Security Preparedness Index. The report, underwritten by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ranked 18 states – including Illinois – as ranking higher than the national average in preparations for threats to health security.

The survey measured 140 separate variables to generate an overall threat assessment score. The numbers included not only health measurements obvious to laypersons, such as the numbers of board-certified pediatricians, but also status assessment that many of us mentally classify in a place different from public health – such as the physical status of Illinois roads and bridges. Illinois’ overall high score was partly driven by especially healthy numbers in the coordination and timely response of first responders to emergencies. Examples of this type of response include Illinois emergency-room and airport security responses to the outbreak of Ebola virus in Africa in 2014.

Illinois Top 200 survey names Wrigley Field as Illinois’ top building. Participants in the Illinois Bicentennial’s Top 200survey were asked to pick their favorite building in Illinois. The popular choice was Wrigley Field, the century-old Major League Baseball park that became the home of the Chicago Cubs in 1916. After many generations of mixed results, the storied Friendly Confines became the home of the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.

Other Illinois buildings were also supported by survey participants. Coming in second was a building owned by the people of Illinois, Springfield’s Dana-Thomas House. The Prairie Style house contains artistic motifs that celebrate Illinois’s ecology and landscapes, and is fitted with more than 100 pieces of Wright-designed furniture, lights, and art glass. The Wilmette Baha’i Temple, Chicago’s Willis Tower, and Chicago’s Robie House were honored with selection slots #3 through #5.

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