Week in Review for September 7, 2018

Mike Marron sworn in as 104th District State Representative. Vermilion County Board Chairman Mike Marron was sworn-in Friday to serve as the new 104th District State Representative. Marron is succeeding retiring State Representative Chad Hays, who had served in office since 2010. Marron, who succeeds both Hays and legendary State Representative Bill Black, thanked both men for their leadership.

“Representatives Bill Black and Chad Hays served the people of Vermilion and Champaign Counties with honor and distinction, rising to leadership positions and amplifying the voice of the people of the 104th District,” Marron said. “I want to personally thank them both for their example and for their guidance and advice as I embark on my own mission to faithfully carry out the charge of this office.”

Marron was sworn in by Justice Thomas O’Shaughnessy in front of a packed room at the Rita B. Garman Vermilion County Courthouse in Danville. Marron thanked his friends and family for their support and briefly previewed some of his top priorities upon taking office.

“As State Representative, I know that my number one job is to be responsive and available to my constituents,” Marron said. “We must right the state’s finances and ensure balanced budgets for the future. The 104thDistrict is a border district that is vulnerable to jobs leaving for Indiana. We need a stable and friendly business environment to spur job growth. We must keep job creators here in Illinois, investing in our communities.”

Rep. Mike Marron (R-Fithian) is a small business owner and operates a family farm with his father in rural Vermilion County. Mike most recently served as Chairman of the Vermilion County Board, where he was responsible for managing and administering the daily operations of Vermilion County's $40 million annual budget. Mike previously represented District 2, and then served as Vice Chair of the Vermilion County Board. Marron also previously served as Supervisor of Pilot Township.

Rep. Marron was a member of Governor Rauner's transition team on agriculture issues; having previously served as Vice Chair, Secretary-Treasurer, and as a Representative of District 7 for the Illinois Soybean Association. Mike was a five-time representative of the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Soybean Association to Capitol Hill in Washington. He has also served as an ISA ambassador to Brazil and China, and has also participated in multiple trade missions, including to Haiti, Colombia, Mexico, and Ghana.

In addition to his service to Illinois agriculture and to the citizens of Vermilion County, Mike Marron is an active leader in the community. Mike has previously served as Chair for the Danville Family YMCA fundraising campaign, as a member of the Danville Public Library Foundation Board of Directors, and as a member of the Bismark Lion's Club and the Royal Sons of the American Legion.

Marron and his wife Brandy reside in Fithian with their young daughter.

Healthy revenue numbers posted in August 2018. The new numbers reflect taxes paid into our State through key State revenue pipelines in August 2018. The figures were posted this week by the Committee on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the nonpartisan budget watchdog arm of the Illinois General Assembly. Measured on a year-over-year basis, August 2018 personal income tax revenues were up $127 million, sales tax revenues were up $54 million, and corporate income tax revenues rose $35 million.

The Illinois private sector makes goods and services that are sold all over the world. After studying current Illinois exports, CGFA summarized the picture in this month’s revenue report. Illinois residents may be surprised to learn that facilities within our State sell almost $6 billion worth of goods and services every month to buyers outside our American borders. The U.S. dollar is an expensive currency for many of our international customers, and so many of these Illinois exports are not commodities: they are specialty goods and services produced by highly trained Illinois workers who are working as team members for an enterprise that enjoys a global high or dominant market share.

Heavy rainfall challenges some low-lying riverbank areas. Rainfall in Wisconsin and northern Illinois in late August and into the Labor Day weekend is causing some property damage in susceptible areas. The Chicago office of the National Weather Service issued a flooding report for Northern Illinois rivers this week. The Des Plaines River, whose floodplain includes much of suburban Chicago, was in flood as the Labor Day holiday came to an end. The greater Rockford area was also affected by flooding. Rivers fed by Wisconsin runoff, including the Pecatonica River and the Rock River, were bank-full or in flood.

ILCollege2Career.com planning tool launched. For the first time, Illinois high school students will have access to data which shows how much they might earn if they graduate from colleges and universities located in the state.

ILCollege2Career.com, unveiled Thursday at Gov. Bruce Rauner’s quarterly Children’s Cabinet meeting, links employment and higher education data so users can compare the relative earnings value of college degrees. The data is broken down by schools and area of study, so that students can compare the earnings potential of business degrees, for example, from different public and private institutions in the state.

The idea is to help students and parents make college decisions based on an evaluation of real-time successes of a school’s graduates, in addition to other factors such as cost, average debt levels, and likelihood to graduate on-time. The tool will also show the benefits of investing in higher education, as it demonstrates how connected our thriving higher education system is to the workforce development of our state.

“ILCollege2Career.com is groundbreaking for our state,” Rauner said while introducing the tool to Cabinet members at the meeting at Springfield High School. “Education has been my top investment priority for many years. In order to grow our economy, we need to give our young people the best education system possible, so they will choose to live, learn and work here in Illinois. This multi-agency effort is making it easier for our students to be informed about their higher education choices and illustrates the competitiveness of our schools right here in the state.”

ILCollege2Career.com is the product of collaboration between the Governor’s Office, Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).

This announcement follows a number of recent education achievements in the state including:
  • $25 million allocated for higher education in FY19 and merit-based scholarship program AIM HIGH to encourage our best and brightest high school grads to stay in Illinois for college;
  • Newly signed Senate Bill 2559 requiring ISAC to develop a three-year pilot program to better educate students on loan amounts, repayment and interest;
  • House Bill 4781 creating a task force to study how student college or career interest data can be collected and shared between high schools and colleges so higher education institutions will be able to enhance their programs and services to support the specific needs of their incoming student body;
  • HB5020 that revises the Monetary Award Program (MAP) to prioritize access for existing grant recipients, and;
  • SB2354 increasing degree-advising services and making it easier to transfer credits between Illinois schools. 
Technical assistance for this project came from the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab (GPL).

“Our goal is to do what we can to keep our best and brightest talent home,” Rauner said. “Illinois is a large and diverse state. So if a student lives in one college town and wants to go elsewhere, we can show them they have a broad choice of college towns to choose from in Illinois. Those kids who want to go to the ‘big city’ can see that one of the greatest cities in the world is a short car or train ride from home and has a broad offering of quality colleges and universities to choose from. Once those students have graduated, they may be more open to looking to stay ‘home,’ whether that is in Chicago or another part of our wonderful state.”

Freshmen enrollment up at EIU. For the fall term in 2018, Eastern Illinois University (EIU) reported this week that freshmen enrollment jumped almost 25%over the 2017 fall term. The jump has led to an increase of over 7.0% in the school’s overall year-to-year student count in fall 2018.

The Eastern Illinois campus is sending out an increasing network of teachers who are able to carry out dual-credit instructions in high schools or in local classrooms for high school students, and the university believes that the success of these programs is inspiring increasing numbers of Illinois young people to choose full-time college study at Eastern.

In addition to the first-year increase, graduate-student EIU enrollment has hit an eight-year high as the school’s programs of specialty education are increasingly attractive to career-minded young adults. The Charleston-based public university has stepped up its international recruitment efforts, and EIU reported this week that their fall 2018 headcount will include students from a record 52 countries.

Illinois National Guard units return from summer training at Fort Polk. More than 4,000 soldiers from across Illinois were assigned during the month of August to the Army training ground in central Louisiana, where they exercised field deployments and operations. The fort’s grounds include heavy brush, woodlands, and wetlands, and the summer 2018 mock deployments included many logistical challenges meant to game out real-life field situations. Members of Illinois units that have trained at Fort Polk are now experienced participants in exercises intended to establish and maintain conditions in which their units can participate fully in operations that necessitate cross-unit coordination, command, and control.

Fort Polk, now designated as the Joint Readiness Training Center, became a legendary training ground for the U.S. Army during the Louisiana Maneuvers of September 1941. In this exercise, General George Patton and future General Dwight D. Eisenhower led Army units in war games in preparation for combat. Starting with this 1941 operation, the Louisiana site has had the capability of handling full-scale war games in which units are pitted against each other in a challenging deployment.

FCC awards $100 million in grants for broadband access in rural Illinois. Fiber cable and other links of broadband infrastructure are essential to modern education and job creation. While market-based forces are enough to ensure the continuous upgrade of telecom infrastructure in highly-populated areas, this is not necessarily true for households living in rural areas such as Downstate Illinois. This problem is called the “rural digital divide.”

Fees levied on Internet and phone bills help to cover the cost of small-town Internet broadband access. This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that they will award fee-based grant funding, totaling $100 million, to nine private-sector firms to facilitate the laying of broadband cable and other infrastructure points throughout sections of rural Illinois. For example, the FCC will pay $35 million to the Mascoutah-based Wisper ISP to help connect 9,000 homes and businesses in southern Illinois. Wisper and its competitors submitted bids in a reverse auction intended to generate the largest number of Internet connections for the smallest subsidies. This week’s broadband cycle will cover projects to be competed through the ten-year 2018-27 period. At least 30% of the connections must be completed within the first three years of the grant cycle.

Bicentennial renovation of Governor’s Mansion, adjacent pedestrian plaza celebrate Illinois’ cultural heritage. The renovated Governor’s Mansion, open to the public in central Springfield, has been refitted in such a way as to make museum-quality custodial space for Illinois-made artwork and artifacts. Tours are free during hours of operation. The Mansion’s inaugural “Art of Illinois” exhibition, to be on view until January 2019, features paintings, furniture, and musical instruments from the early 1800s to 2016.

The new Bicentennial Plaza, adjacent to the Mansion, also borders on the Sixth Street segment of historic U.S. Highway 66. Built with help from the Illinois Realtors, the plaza has been fitted with many historical markers that set forth the challenges that faced many groups of Illinoisans as they strove for full citizenship and equal rights. The pedestrian plaza is built on top of a segment of historic Jackson Street, the city thoroughfare on which Abraham Lincoln lived with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln and their family. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is located one block east from the Plaza.

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