CORRUPTION
Capitol Crimes: Shattered Trust. Democracy depends on the public’s trust of its leaders. When that trust is shattered it could take years, if ever, to put the pieces back together. Wiretaps, stings, racketeering, bribery, and extortion – terms that have become all too familiar to the general public. Why should they care about good public policy if the politicians don’t? It is one of the reasons that so many people are disengaging from politics – they don’t trust politicians to do the right thing.

Democracy depends on the public’s trust of its leaders. When that trust is shattered it could take years, if ever, to put the pieces back together. Wiretaps, stings, racketeering, bribery, and extortion – terms that have become all too familiar to the general public. Why should they care about good public policy if the politicians don’t?  It is one of the reasons that so many people are disengaging from politics – they don’t trust politicians to do the right thing. 

In an era of hyper-partisan rhetoric surrounding all layers of government, many Illinois residents are eager to hear about ways their elected officials are working together across the aisle to bring about improvements to Illinoisans daily lives.

A recent example of strongly bipartisan legislation was a measure sponsored by State Representative Norine Hammond (Macomb) to require health insurance plans to provide coverage for proton beam therapy cancer treatment.

“Will you please stand for the National Anthem?,” is a universal indicator heard all over the United States that an event will be starting soon. Everyone stands, removes their hats, places their hands on their hearts and faces the American flag. Following our nation’s anthem, the event begins.

The tradition of playing the National Anthem before sporting events comes from the World War I era, in 1918 during the first game of the World Series, between the Boston Red Sox and our very own, Chicago Cubs. Prior to this game, occasionally a live military band would play the National Anthem, but it was not a tradition yet.

In the first half of the year, lawmakers spend a lot of time in Springfield during the legislative session and not as much as they would like in their districts. So, it is important when they are home in their districts to make the most of every minute available to connect with people in their communities.

According to the National Institute of Justice, recidivism is defined as a person’s relapse into criminal behavior. Recidivism rates vary in Illinois, but according to the Illinois Department of Corrections, the rates are generally between 38 and 44 percent.  

One of the ways the State of Illinois works to reduce recidivism is through the Illinois Correctional Industries program. This initiative provides vocational training to incarcerated individuals and helps them obtain valuable job skills and experience. This program does not involve any extra costs to taxpayers. 

Illinois House Republicans and thousands of concerned Illinois residents are working as part of statewide and local grassroots efforts to keep strict California Emission Standards from being enacted by radical Illinois Democrats. These emission standards would eliminate the production and use of gasoline-powered vehicles and force drivers to buy electric vehicles in Illinois in the near future.

BUDGET
Governor delivers largest budget proposal in state history. House Republicans respond. Governor JB Pritzker delivered his State of the State and Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Address to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly this week.

Governor Pritzker introduced the largest budget proposal in state history. The Governor’s FY25 proposed budget would spend $52.7 billion, which is a $2.3 billion increase over the FY24 enacted budget – a 4.5% increase.

The Governor delivered his annual budget address today in Springfield, setting Illinois on a course to spend $2.29 billion more than last year and increase taxes by $910 million. It is largest budget proposal in state history. The Governor’s proposed budget will spend $52.7 billion, creating a $775 million shortfall.

Here’s what some of our legislative members are saying:

Deputy Republican Leader Norine Hammond (Macomb)
“Today we saw Governor Pritzker introduce the largest budget proposal in state history. The Governor’s FY25 proposed budget spends $52.7 billion, which is a $2.3 billion increase over the FY24 enacted budget – a 4.5% increase.

Exports are a staple of the economy in Illinois, which is the fifth-largest exporting state in the U.S. and largest in the Midwest. International trade supported more than 1.6 million jobs in Illinois in 2022 as the state exported over $78 billion worth of goods. Jobs supported by trade represent over 20 percent of the total jobs in Illinois. 

Coming off the COVID-19 downturn of 2020, Illinois exports rebounded with an increase of 24 percent to $65.9 billion in 2021. Over $27 billion in exports in 2021 went to two countries, Canada ($18.4 billion) and Mexico ($8.9 billion). Top exports overall by category in 2021 included Chemicals ($14.2 billion), Machinery ($11.2 billion), Computer and Electronic Products ($7.2 billion), and Transportation Equipment ($6.3 billion). 

The Chicagoland area serves as the nation’s hub for food manufacturing workers, along with being home to the largest and most innovative food industry corporations. The region has direct access to productive farmland, in addition to a vast array of transportation options. Chicago’s location in the Midwest also plays a large role in enhancing its ability to transport products across the U.S. 

On Wednesday, Governor J.B. Pritzker will deliver the State of the State and Budget Address from the chambers of the Illinois House of Representatives to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly.

In his address, the Governor will signal his spending priorities for the 2025/2026 fiscal year. However, it will ultimately be up to the members of the General Assembly to appropriate the funding for those priorities. 

There have been 46 Presidents of the United States, dating back to George Washington, who served as the first President from 1789 to 1797. Of those 46, four have direct ties to Illinois and can claim it as their home state. One President, Ronald Reagan, was born in Illinois and graduated from Eureka College before moving out of state to pursue a broadcasting career at age 21.

CORRUPTION

House Republicans Respond to Latest Madigan Era Sentencing. On Monday, February 12, former Speaker Mike Madigan’s Chief of Staff was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for making false declarations before a grand jury and obstruction of justice. The sentencing for Tim Mapes came after defense attorneys pushed for a lenient sentence of community service, which was denied in federal court by Judge John Kness in the Northern District. Instead, Mapes was held accountable for his wrongful attempt to guard the corrupt ways of Mike Madigan.

State Representative Amy Elik introduced legislation to encourage small businesses to reinvest earnings in their communities.

The legislation—HB 4669 would create small-business savings accounts, allowing businesses to put aside up to $50,000 per year for future business investments.

At a press conference on February 7 in Springfield, Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) and Rep. Tim Ozinga (R-Mokena) announced a plan to combat opportunity deserts and provide solutions to high property taxes paid by all Illinois property owners and provides the greatest relief to those in low income communities. Also participating in the press conference was former state representative Mark Batinick of Plainfield.

In late 2022, Martin Hubbard was convicted of eight counts of predatory sexual assault and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Earlier in the year he had been found guilty of two counts each for sexually assaulting four children under the age of 5 years old while they were in the care of his wife's Effingham daycare.

But that’s not the entire story, nor is it the only harm these young children had to endure. Because in order to get the conviction that would put the predator behind bars, these young children had to re-tell and re-live their stories over and over again. It was cruel beyond words.

In this episode of Capitol Crimes, Dean Abbott recounts the steps taken by lawmakers to consider the rights of defendants and protect the well-being of child victims when they testify against their abusers.


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To conclude her annual Valentine's program, House Minority Leader Tony McCombie delivered hundreds of Valentine’s Day cards to area veterans. McCombie launched her ‘Valentines for Vets’ program last month and received countless cards created by students, local groups, and area residents to then distribute to veterans on February 14th.

Chicago and other areas of the Midwest celebrate a delicious Polish tradition every year known as “Paczki Day.” This day-before-Lent celebration occurs on what is commonly known as “Fat Tuesday” during Mardi Gras.

In Poland, paczki are traditionally made on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. However, many Polish Americans now combine the celebrations with Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday. If you are wondering what a paczki is, one Chicago baker sums it up succinctly – “essentially a cream-filled donut, but on steroids.” 

Today former Speaker Mike Madigan’s Chief of Staff was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for making false declarations before a grand jury and obstruction of justice. The sentencing for Tim Mapes came after defense attorneys pushed for a lenient sentence of community service, which was denied in federal court today by Judge John Kness in the Northern District. Instead, Mapes was held accountable for his wrongful attempt to guard the corrupt ways of Mike Madigan.

Although Abraham Lincoln was not born in Illinois, he is generally regarded as one of the state’s most influential and famous historical figures. Illinois is known as the ‘Land of Lincoln,’ and Lincoln’s footprint can be found all over the state, especially in and around the capital city of Springfield.

Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States in 1861. He moved to Illinois at age 21 in 1830. Lincoln’s adult life and rise to the presidency took place in Illinois. His story is told through historical sites, museums, exhibits, and his former places of residence in the state. Lincoln’s life and legacy are on full display in Illinois.

BUDGET

House Republican leaders discuss budget priorities. House Minority Leader Tony McCombie and Republican Budgeteers discussed their priorities for the Fiscal Year 2025 State Budget at a press conference in Leader McCombie’s Capitol office Thursday.

As the General Assembly begins a new legislative session and looks ahead to the Governor’s budget address in two weeks, the Republican leaders wanted to set the stage for what they expect to be included in the upcoming FY25 budget proposal.

Frito-Lay is one of the largest snack food manufacturers in the United States. They make some of the most popular potato chips in the American marketplace, including Lay’s, Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos and many others. And farmers in Illinois play a huge role in the production of these Frito-Lay products. 

With Super Bowl Sunday approaching, millions of American television viewers will be enjoying their favorite Frito-Lay snacks while watching the big game. Many varieties of chips and dips are enjoyed on Super Bowl Sunday. 

The Boy Scouts of America provide youth with character development and values-based leadership training, with its founders incorporating outdoor activities to develop skills in young boys to give them values such as a code of conduct for everyday living, fellowship, and enjoyment. The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. 

The first riverboat casino in Illinois opened in September 1991 in Alton. The original Alton Belle Casino was a three-deck, 600-passenger boat that included 296 slot machines and 22 gaming tables. Alton received the first of 10 original licenses from the Illinois Gaming Board. 

Options to gamble legally in Illinois before the establishment of riverboat casinos were limited, with bets on horse races legal since 1927 and lottery tickets able to be purchased since 1974. 

Illinois native Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in the tiny village of Tampico in Whiteside County in 1911. Mr. Reagan died at the age of 93 in 2004. Reagan is most famous for being elected the 40th President of the United States and served eight years in office from 1981-1989.

When it’s your job to ensure the safety of children, failure should never be an option. Yet the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the state agency charged with protecting children, had failed spectacularly time-and-time again. The abuse, torture and subsequent murder of five-year-old Andrew “AJ” Freund at the hands of his parents stunned his community, but it was DCFS’ failure to protect AJ that shook the state.

Every year during the month of February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation. Black History Month celebrates the cultural heritage, triumphs, and adversities that are part of the country’s history. 

The celebration of Black History in the U.S. began in Chicago with Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian and alumnus of the University of Chicago. Woodson and four others, including A. L. Jackson and minister Jesse Moorland, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in September 1915 at the Wabash YMCA. This organization was dedicated to researching and promoting the achievements of Black Americans and other people of African descent. The group sponsored national Negro History Week in 1926. 

ESTATE TAX

McCombie and House Republicans Back Estate Tax Legislation. This week, the Illinois Farm Bureau unveiled new legislation aimed at improving the Illinois Estate Tax. House Minority Leader Tony McCombie has spearheaded efforts throughout her tenure to address this problematic “death” tax, one that has disproportionately hurt family farms but also small businesses and manufacturing in Illinois. McCombie and members of her leadership team stand in support of the recently unveiled bipartisan proposal.

The 1993 hit movie ‘Groundhog Day’ starred Bill Murray and was one of the most successful films of its era, grossing nearly $71 million worldwide. The movie plot centered around a small Pennsylvania town’s Groundhog Day celebration; however, the movie was filmed in northern Illinois in the McHenry County city of Woodstock. The romance/comedy was rated PG and has a lofty score of 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

First episode streams today

There is a story behind every piece of legislation introduced in the Illinois General Assembly.  Some stories are light-hearted and some are maddening.  And others, like the horrific murders of Pam Knight and AJ Freund, are terribly tragic.  

While you may have heard about Pam Knight and AJ Freund from news accounts, truth-be-told, you haven’t heard the entire story. What’s more, you haven’t heard how lawmakers attempted to prevent future tragedies like these with thoughtful legislation. And, how the majority party blocked those same pieces of legislation, refusing to create new public safety laws. You haven’t heard, until now.

The Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) Program was launched nationally in 2003 by the American Dental Association. Every year, over 6,000 dentists and 30,000 dental team members volunteer at GKAS events to provide free oral health education, screenings, and preventative and restorative treatment to over 300,000 children. GKAS events are held nationally throughout the year, including all across Illinois. The first Friday in February, known as Give Kids a Smile Day, kicks off the program each year. 

SPRINGFIELD…Today, the Illinois Farm Bureau unveiled new legislation aimed at improving the Illinois Estate Tax. House Minority Leader Tony McCombie (Savanna) has spearheaded efforts throughout her tenure to address this problematic “death” tax, one that has disproportionately hurt family farms but also small businesses and manufacturing in Illinois. McCombie and members of her leadership team stand in support of the recently unveiled bipartisan proposal.

The Great Blizzard of 1978 paralyzed parts of the Midwest, including northern Illinois, for several days. The snowstorm caused significant damage and disruption and brought life to a standstill for thousands of people. The storm disrupted transportation and communication systems and caused widespread power outages. Travel was nearly impossible, and many small towns were dealt with impassable roads and downed phone and power lines. 

Chicago-based Levy has evolved into a leading sports and entertainment hospitality company. With more than 300 venues in North America, Levy provides food and beverage services for 112 professional sports teams. Levy serves four major stadiums/arenas in the Chicago area, including Wrigley Field, United Center, Guaranteed Rate Field, and Now Arena. Levy also has premium catering and concession contracts at 25 professional sports facilities and racetracks, along with six for general concessions. 

Cold winter days are a normal part of life every year for drivers in Illinois. There are some well-established truths, but also time-honored myths, about the best ways to safely warm up your vehicle on those cold days.

Beyond warming up the cabin or defrosting the windshield, letting the vehicle sit idling for an extended period of time is not recommended. This practice can lead to wasting fuel and generating needless emissions into the atmosphere. Older engines weren’t well lubricated with oil, so in the past warming up the car through several minutes of idling was the norm. But today, modern cars have improved technology and engines are fully lubricated within 20 to 30 seconds. 

The Illinois Department of Revenue will begin accepting 2023 state individual income tax returns on Monday, January 29. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also begins accepting federal income tax returns on this date. For the most up-to-date information, forms, schedules, and instructions for the 2023 tax season, visit the IDOR’s website

CORRUPTION & ETHICS REFORM
House Republicans Renew Call for Ethics Reform. As the tangled web of Democrats’ corruption continues to unwind over and over in federal court, Illinois House Republicans have renewed calls for needed ethics reforms. The list of convictions continues to pile up, and the silence from the Democrat side of the aisle is deafening.

Earlier this week, State Representative Amy Grant announced a major advancement in easing the process for obtaining a driver’s license in Illinois. After numerous complaints from constituents about Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) procedures, Rep. Grant took decisive action by filing House Bill 1528.

Illinois is home to several well-known supermarkets and grocery stores. Some are larger chains, while others are more regionalized and neighborhood focused. Jewel-Osco is headquartered in the Chicago suburbs, as are IGA, Aldi, Mariano’s, and Caputo’s. In downstate Illinois, Quincy is home to Niemann Foods, which includes County Market and Save-A-Lot stores. Sullivan’s Foods operates 11 locations in northern and central Illinois.

On January 27, the world commemorates the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Holocaust was the state-sponsored persecution and mass murder of millions of European Jews, Romani people, intellectually disabled, political dissidents, and homosexuals by the German Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. 

Every winter season, snow brings magic to the Illinois landscape and its numerous state parks. From ice climbing and cross-country skiing to frozen waterfalls and snow-filled canyons, there are fun adventures to be found at state parks. Here are some parks worth exploring during the winter months. 

As the tangled web of Democrats’ corruption continues to unwind over and over in federal court, Illinois House Republicans have renewed calls for needed ethics reforms. The list of convictions continues to pile up, and the silence from the Democrat side of the aisle is deafening. 

As the Illinois General Assembly has kicked off the 2024 legislative session, State Representative Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore) has filed legislation to end a cumbersome requirement for Illinois residents aged 75 and older. Illinois is the only state in the nation that requires drivers 75 and older to retake a driving test as a condition of renewing their driver’s license. Keicher’s legislation, House Bill 4431, would end this practice.

Winter in Illinois can bring about all kinds of unpredictable weather, from extreme cold and wind to blowing snow, snow drifts, and ice. As temperatures rise above and below freezing, wet ground can become very slick. Winter slips and falls can range from minor to extremely dangerous, and injuries can occur. Consider the following safety tips to help you stay safe and avoid injuries while out shoveling or walking in snowy conditions. 

GENERAL ASSEMBLY
New Legislative Session Convenes. The Illinois General Assembly convened in Springfield this week for the beginning of the new legislative session.

To start off the new year and new session, the House Republican caucus welcomed two new members: State Representative Nicole La Ha and State Representative Brandun Schweizer. Leader McCombie proudly welcomed them to the chamber this week!

In 2003, popcorn gained special status in Illinois. After the state ran a contest seeking ideas for an official state snack food, Joliet teacher Fran Hollister and her second and third grade students went to work as part of a class project. Lawmakers made it official in August, passing legislation that declared popcorn the official snack food of Illinois

There are 333 Illinois farms that grow popcorn on 47,000 acres, making Illinois the third largest grower of the product. Mason County grows more popcorn than any county in the U.S., and only Indiana and Iowa produce more popcorn annually than Illinois. 

Popcorn growers in Mason County sell to a variety of wholesalers representing nationwide brands as bagged popcorn seeds, microwave popcorn, or prepared popcorn. Their products are also sold to local grocers and farmers markets. 

Illinois, along with Indiana and Michigan, has received a $1 billion federal funding award from the U.S. Department of Energy for the Midwest Hydrogen Hub. The Hub is a network that enables decarbonization through strategic hydrogen use and will reduce carbon emissions by nearly 4 million metric tons per year. 

A moratorium on new nuclear reactor construction that had been in place since 1987 was lifted by Illinois lawmakers late in 2023, paving the way for small nuclear reactor construction after January 1, 2026. The bi-partisan legislation will help address the demand for energy with downstate coal and gas plants scheduled to shut down in future years. 

The new law, which was passed during the fall veto session, will allow the state to build 300 megawatt reactors, known as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), throughout Illinois. The legislation allowed a study to be conducted on the state’s role in guiding the development of SMRs and allows the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to regulate SMRs. 

State Representative Amy Elik’s (R-Alton) initiative signed into law last June accomplished what it was intended to accomplish. It helped retain jobs and spur major investment in Illinois, most recently in East Alton. Wieland Rolled Products (formerly known as Olin Brass) announced their plans today for investment and job retention at its East Alton facility.