Week in Review for July 20, 2018

Jeff Keicher sworn in as 70th District State Representative. Joined by community leaders, family and friends, Sycamore businessman Jeff Keicher took the oath of office at Dayton Farms on Tuesday to become the new State Representative for Illinois’ 70th District, encompassing portions of Boone, DeKalb, and Kane Counties. Keicher replaces former Representative Bob Pritchard, who resigned July 1 to accept an appointment to the Board of Trustees of Northern Illinois University.

Following through on a commitment he made previously, Representative Keicher will sign official paperwork declining state health insurance benefits, as well as opting out of the pension system for state legislators.

“I am deeply humbled and excited to begin this new opportunity to serve my community and our state,” Representative Keicher said. “My first act as state representative is to decline a pension and taxpayer-funded health insurance benefits. I am focused solely on my commitment to serve the families and taxpayers of the 70thDistrict, making sure their voices are heard in Springfield and being an advocate for NIU and growing jobs throughout the DeKalb region.”

Representative Keicher was appointed to serve out the remainder of former Representative Pritchard’s term, which expires in January 2019. Until further notice, Keicher will maintain Pritchard’s former district office, located at 2600 DeKalb Avenue, Suite C in Sycamore. Representative Keicher is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with over 20 years of professional experience in the insurance industry. In 2006, he opened his own State Farm Insurance Agency in Sycamore.

“Born and raised in the 70th district, Northern Illinois University graduate Jeff Keicher knows the needs and priorities of his constituents and will represent their best interests in Springfield,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. “I look forward to working with him on reforms to help the district’s key industries such as higher education, small business and agriculture that will help our state thrive once again.”

Gov. Rauner signs emergency “red flag” gun law, enacts 72-hour waiting period for all gun purchases. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed two bills into law this week that could help prevent people who are a threat to themselves or others from possessing or purchasing guns. The bills, which have bipartisan and bicameral support, are part of the comprehensive public safety plan that the governor unveiled earlier this year.

Rauner’s signature on HB 2354 enacts “red flag” legislation giving courts authority to use emergency civil restraining orders to disarm dangerous individuals; and with the signing of SB 3256, the 72-hour waiting period for handguns delivery is extended to all guns purchased in Illinois.

At the press conference announcing the bill actions, Rauner urged legislators to get to work on other public safety legislation, including proposals that give schools the ability to hire more resource officers and mental health workers. He also used the press conference to make it clear that he will veto dealer licensing legislation (SB 337) if and when it is sent to his desk.

Bipartisan support for emergency restraining orders

“Everyone agrees that we need to keep firearms out of the hands of those who would use them to commit acts of violence against themselves or others,” said Rauner. “These two laws are a commonsense approach that gives us tools to limit access to guns and perhaps save lives while we continue to respect Constitutional rights.”

The new “red flag” law means the courts can prevent possession or purchase of firearms in emergency situations where there is imminent danger of gun violence.

“Acts of senseless violence in schools, churches or other public places are all too often committed by individuals who have shown signs that they are mentally unstable and interested in causing harm to themselves or others,” said State Rep. Peter Breen. “This tightly worded legislation puts critical protections in place to help curb mass shootings by disturbed individuals who should not have access to guns. It’s an excellent example of how we can produce good legislation when politics is set aside, and Republicans and Democrats work together.”

“The legislation signed into law today addresses the growing problem of unstable people using guns to cause harm, while also protecting gun owners’ rights,” said Rep. Steve Reick, also a chief co-sponsor. “The firearms restraining order bill that was sent to us by the Senate represented an extreme overreach into the civil liberties and Constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners. It also lacked adequate due process for the individuals from whom firearms would be removed.”

Waiting period for all gun purchases

The 72-hour waiting period in SB 3256 is a bipartisan measure extending the wait to all guns purchased in the state. It, too, has the potential to prevent tragedies. In suicide cases, for example, health professionals say if the impulse to commit suicide is not acted upon immediately, it often does not arise again. The short delay prior to possession could be the difference between life and death.

“No such need with respect to firearm possession is answered by the amended dealer licensing bill passed by the General Assembly (SB 337),” the governor said. “I intend to veto it again because it has no appreciable potential to reduce criminal access to guns.”

According to Loyola University studies on gun violence in Chicago, criminals rarely buy their guns directly from federally licensed and regulated gun dealers. Criminals obtain their guns further down the supply chain, usually from street sources and most often from sources out of state. No amount of duplicative state regulation of gun dealers, who are already federally licensed, will change that reality.

In addition, Rauner said that SB 337 creates another unnecessary regulatory burden for 2,700 small businesses whose livelihoods would be threatened.

The governor introduced a comprehensive public safety plan in May. The plan included the 72-hour waiting period for all guns, an emergency restraining order, school resource officer plan, as well as a bump stock ban, truth in sentencing, and a death penalty provision for mass murderers and those who kill police officers.

Southern Illinois University begins process of moving onward. Randy Dunn has announced his resignation as president of the multicampus university. SIU has a historic, flagship campus in Carbondale, a full-service campus in Edwardsville, and a medical school in Springfield. Dunn had been the target of calls, led by Rep. Terri Bryant, for his ouster. The calls followed revelations that Dunn had taken steps to siphon university resources from Carbondale to Edwardsville.

Calling the announcement “welcome news,” Rep. Bryant called for unity. Bryant, who represents most of the Carbondale-Murphysboro area where SIU’s historic main campus is located, had taken the lead in defending her community and the standing of the Carbondale campus by calling for Dunn’s ouster. “It also signals an end of one era and the beginning of another,” the lawmaker added. “The next president of the Southern Illinois University system should remember that they are charged with protecting and preserving the health of the entire University system as a whole.” Bryant added that she strongly supports efforts by the SIU board of trustees as they begin the search for a permanent new president.

Dunn’s resignation was officially announced on Monday, July 16.

Illinois created 18,100 jobs in June; unemployment rate held steady. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has announced jobless numbers for June 2018. As with the May 2018 numbers, the State’s economic status continued to approach 4.0% “full employment.” In addition, nonfarm payrolls increased by 18,100 month-over-month, based on numbers submitted by employers to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“June’s payroll gain is the largest in 12 months and the third largest in 24 months,” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “Illinois’ unemployment rate held steady in June and stands at its lowest point in 12 years.”

The net gain of 18,100 payroll jobs in June 2018 was greater than any monthly Illinois hiring increase credited to the second half of calendar year 2017 or the first five months of 2018. When all 12 months are counted, over the past year the Illinois economy has created 58,300 net new nonfarm payroll jobs. The 4.3% unemployment rate, which tied with the May 2018 mark, was the lowest unemployment rate enjoyed by Illinois in the past 12 years.

Governor signs legislation codifying Department of Innovation & Technology. The Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), formed by Executive Order in 2016, is now officially recognized as a state agency.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed HB 5611 today, a bill which passed unanimously in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly this spring, codifying the agency into law. Bipartisan support for the legislation reflects the state’s commitment to improve cybersecurity, enhance employee work processes, and provide better services to Illinois citizens.

“When we first came into office, we discovered that our technology systems had been grossly neglected. Employees at multiple agencies relied on manual, paper processes for much of their work. That was extremely inefficient,” Rauner said. “We created DoIT, put a team of experts in place and developed a comprehensive approach to modernize our technology. Now, I’m proud to say we are among the nation’s leaders when it comes to using smart technology and making sure our citizens’ personal information is secure.”

“Illinois’ digital transformation is being realized as a result of Gov. Rauner’s vision and leadership,” said DoIT Acting Secretary and State Chief Information Officer Kirk Lonbom. “We’re making rapid strides toward improving operational efficiencies and offering state services through the convenience of mobility, while placing the security of data and operations at the foundation of all initiatives.”

Cybersecurity has been a priority for DoIT. Since its inception, the agency has encrypted more than 5.8 billion records, protecting the personal and private information of Illinois citizens. DoIT launched the first statewide security operations center with 24/7 monitoring aimed at identifying risk and proactively responding to cyberthreats.

Staff members at DoIT also have focused on streamlining state operations and improving efficiencies across state agencies. Over half of the state’s financials are now managed on a common system to address decades of lack of interoperability and financial management challenges.Infrastructure and network unification efforts in Illinois have already resulted in savings and cost-avoidance of over $20 million.

“Improving government operations, increasing transparency, and saving taxpayer money are all goals being achieved by DoIT. This is important legislation to ensure we provide a modern and efficient government to our citizens,” said Rep. Keith Wheeler.

“This legislation creates a necessary department that will be able to efficiently handle the magnitude of information gathered by state agencies in the safest and most secure way possible,” said Rep. Christine Winger. “DoIT will transform the antiquated nature of the state’s systems, and help protect Illinois residents and their information efficiently. I am pleased to see this initiative move forward, especially one that will support the infrastructure and future of Illinois.”

Through its Smart State initiative, DoIT also is helping local governments use SMART technology (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) on things like street lighting — which cuts down on energy costs and saves taxpayer dollars.

For additional information, please see the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology strategy at https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/doit/Strategy/EnterpriseStrategies/Pages/default.aspx.

Gov. Rauner signs Quincy Veterans’ Home bills. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation Tuesday that expands the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Quincy and cuts the red tape on future construction projects, allowing the administration to move quickly to build a new state-of-the-art facility at the campus.

“We’re building a brand new facility and making sure our veterans have a safe place to call home,” Rauner said. “Building this new facility should not be caught up in the bureaucratic process. Our veterans deserve the best. They have fought to secure our freedom and we’re fighting to make sure they have the care they need for generations to come.”

Rauner signed Senate Bill 3128, allowing the state to use the design-build delivery method to renovate, rehabilitate and rebuild the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Quincy. This method will eliminate redundant steps in the traditional state construction process, shave months off the overall project time and save taxpayer dollars.

“More than 360 veterans call the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Quincy home and we’re excited about moving forward with this project,” said Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Acting Director Stephen Curda. “This home is a staple in the community and we hope that never changes. We are all proud of this home and just last week, we gave Quincy residents an opportunity to learn more about the new home development process and provide ideas on what it could look like.”

Rauner also signed House Bill 5683, which makes the recently purchased Sycamore nursing facility an official part of the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Quincy. Renovations are already underway on the Sycamore unit and are expected to be complete by the end of the year. Securing this unit will ensure continuity of care and temporary housing for veterans while construction on the new facility at the existing campus is ongoing.

“The heroes who live at the Quincy Veterans’ Home deserve the very best care that can be provided, and today we took a major step in ensuring that will happen,” said Rep. Randy Frese, R-Quincy. “Our veterans and the entire Quincy community are thankful and are looking forward to a remodeled and revitalized Quincy Veterans’ Home.”

“This is part of a multi-pronged effort to provide top notch facilities for our state’s veterans in Quincy,” said Rep. Mike McAuliffe, R-Chicago. “It will guarantee that the veterans that are moved to Sycamore during ongoing renovations to Quincy are still seeing the same familiar, caring faces.”

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