Latest News

School funding reform and SB16 continue to be polarizing issues in Illinois. On Tuesday, a joint meeting of the House Elementary & Secondary Education and Appropriations- Elementary & Secondary Education Committees was held, and testimony was gathered for 5 ½ hours. While claims were reiterated by the House sponsor of the bill (Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora) that SB16 would not be called for a vote anytime soon, it became very clear even before the committee hearing started that there are some legislators on the joint committee who are indeed eager for the bill to be passed sooner rather than later. An hour before the hearing began, several House members joined citizens from Chicago and downstate school districts for a rally in support of SB16 in the Capitol rotunda. Legislators, including some who serve on the Education committees, said passing SB16 was a priority. For that reason, I believe the bill is still very alive and urge everyone to remain engaged in the effort to stop it. Especially as we look toward a January Lame Duck Session, anything can happen.

At the marathon hearing, 32 different groups brought individuals forward to testify. Speakers included education experts from the Illinois State Board of Education and the School Management Alliance, many school superintendents, students and representatives from school funding advocacy groups. While those who spoke included both proponents and opponents, the majority of those who offered testimony said they were glad to see the topic of education funding being discussed in earnest, but that SB16 is not the solution. Most said the solution must address equity and adequacy so that the new formula does not simply create a new list of winners and losers. I couldn't agree more.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to file on-line witness slips in opposition to SB16. At the start of the hearing, there were well over 7,000 opponent slips and only about 1,500 proponent slips submitted. In my time in the General Assembly, I know of no other instance when more than 8,500 people weighed in on a piece of legislation. Through those 7,000+ opponent slips, you made a loud statement that cannot be ignored.

Because the topic of education reform deserves a full, thoughtful, and thorough discussion by all members of the General Assembly, House Republicans have filed a piece of legislation to create the House Education Funding Advisory Committee. Through HR1335, an eight-member bipartisan panel would be charged with conducting a thorough review of the funding distribution methods and expenditures of education funding and make recommendations to implement a new education funding system. Building on the progress already made by the Senate Education Funding Committee, the House Education Funding Advisory Committee would seek input from stakeholders and members of the public on issues and possible improvements to the existing funding system. Both committees would be encouraged to meet together to discuss their findings and make joint recommendations to members of the General Assembly. I am a Chief Co-Sponsor of HR1335.

Illinois' economic diversity makes issues like school funding incredibly difficult to resolve; however this topic is too important to be rushed. I look forward to continuing this discussion with all stakeholders, members of the public, and my colleagues in the General Assembly, so that together we can find a consensus on school funding that benefits everyone.



Lawmakers return to Springfield this week for the 2014 Veto Session. During the 2014 Spring Session, Governor Quinn issued either a partial or full veto of ten bills. He also issued a line item veto in relation to one of the FY15 appropriations bills (HB3793). Some of the vetoes were at the request of bill sponsors, but vetoed items of interest are summarized below:

HB3796: This bill seeks to protect units of government from those who abuse the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and are chronic filers of requests that overburden municipal employees. The bill would not affect those citizens who take an interest in issues and file FOIA requests in good faith. The Governor issued a full veto, claiming it decreased transparency.

HB4075: The Governor also issued a full veto of this bill, which seeks to add regulations to for-profit commercial transportation providers such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. The bill was an initiative of the association which includes almost all of the taxi cab companies in Chicago. Ridesharing companies oppose the bill because they feel it favors the current taxi cab companies while discouraging healthy competition within the transportation industry. Quinn also issued a full veto to a trailer bill, HB5331, which attempts to address the concerns expressed by the ridesharing industry about HB4075. In both cases, the Governor said he felt transportation issues were best left to local control.

SB930: Governor Quinn issued a full veto of this measure, which would increase the speed limit for semi-trucks and school buses on interstate highways in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties to 60 mph from the current limit of 55 mph. Quinn cited vehicle safety concerns in his veto statement.

SB2015: This bill seeks to increase the speed limit for cars on all highways under the jurisdiction of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to 70 mph. Last year a law was passed that increased the speed limit to 70 mph on highways outside of urban districts, and the new law would create consistency. The Governor issued a full veto of the bill.

SB2664: This bill amends the Condominium Property Act to provide that a purchaser of a condo unit in foreclosure is only required to pay nine months of any past-due assessments to the association. Governor Quinn issued an amendatory veto which adds an additional requirement for the mortgagee of the property requiring the bank holding the mortgage to pay any liens on the property. Quinn said this was necessary because he felt SB2664 as approved in the House and Senate did not do enough to protect condo associations from losing payments of past-due assessments and fees when foreclosed condos are sold.

In addition to the above items, which are expected to come before legislators during Veto Session, the following items of interest may also be debated either during Veto Session or during an early January Lame Duck Session:

Tax Hike Extension
Governor Quinn and Democrat leaders might push legislation to extend the 2011 temporary income tax increase, which is scheduled to partially repeal on January 1, 2015. The current temporary individual income tax is 5% and the corporate income tax rate is 7%. If the temporary income tax increase expires, the individual and corporate rates will fall to 3.75% and 5.25%, respectively.

Tax Policy Changes
In December 2013, House Speaker Mike Madigan announced that he was creating a joint committee on tax policies with the goal of enacting revenue-neutral tax policies. Members of the State Government and Revenue Committees met jointly several times between January and May and subsequently filed a report summarizing the testimony taken and issues discussed during their hearings.

It is anticipated that the Democrats will propose revenue-neutral tax policy changes the could include: the repeal of the Corporate Franchise Tax, the creation of a new “alternative minimum tax” on businesses based on payroll, an R&D Tax Credit extension and modernization, a Manufacturer’s Purchase Credit extension, a reduction to corporate income tax rate, and a reduction of LLC filing fees.

Pension Cost Shift
Speaker Madigan will likely renew his efforts to shift the normal pension costs from the state to school districts, community colleges, and universities. In FY15, it is estimated that a shift would have a $1.1 billion impact on locals and public universities.

Education Funding Reform
SB 16, a bill that would dramatically rewrite the funding formula used to disperse General State Aid to Illinois school districts, passed in the IL Senate in May. At the time, Senators were urged to vote in favor of the bill to “keep the education funding conversation going.” Over the summer, House Democrat members met secretly with education groups in anticipation of reviving SB 16.

As written, SB16 adds no new funding for Education; it simply reallocates existing resources in a manner that is very punitive to most collar county school districts that are deemed “wealthy” by the State. The following chart outlines how the school districts within IL House District 81 would be impacted by SB16:

District Name
SB16 Change in Funding
% Change in Funding
Change Per Student
Naperville 203
-$9,441,776
-76.1%
-$564
Downers Grove 58
-$2,180,761
-73.2%
-$483
Darien 61
-$1,375,861
-83.0%
-$858
Downers Grove 99
-$3,019,941
-77.1%
-$595
Center Cass 66
-$615,214
-76.9%
-$589
Woodridge 68
-$3,212,670
-87.4%
-$1,211

On September 19th, I filed HR 1276, which urges the General Assembly to cease their efforts to pass SB16 to make certain that all aspects of the Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee report are analyzed and discussed thoroughly and publicly by all members of the General Assembly, taxpayers, parents, and the education community. A subject matter hearing for SB16 will be held on Tuesday, November 18 in Springfield. The timing of the hearing suggests a plan is in place for the bill to move either during Veto Session or during the Lame Duck Session.

Minimum Wage Hike
This issue appeared on the November 4 ballot as an advisory referendum. It was approved by 67% of the voters. There will likely be another push to increase the minimum wage for employees over the age of 18 from $8.25 an hour to $10. The federal minimum wage rate is $7.25. During the Spring Session there were not enough votes in the General Assembly to pass a minimum wage increase.

Surcharge on Millionaires
Speaker Madigan unsuccessfully proposed to change the Illinois Constitution to impose a 3% additional income surcharge on individuals earning $1 million and above. Instead an advisory referendum was placed on the November ballot, and 63% of Illinois’ voters voted in favor of the measure. It is anticipated that the Speaker will renew his efforts to pass the initiative. The surcharge would raise $800 million in revenue for education.

Equal Rights Amendment
SJRCA 75 is a constitutional amendment that seeks to add Illinois to the list of states that have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for inclusion in the United States Constitution.

Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program
SB 2758 creates the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act. The bill establishes an automatic payroll deduction IRA program for private-sector employees that will be overseen by the Treasurer, Comptroller, GOMB, and 7 gubernatorial appointees. Businesses with 25 or more employees are required to automatically set up the payroll deductions unless the employee opts out.

Opponents believe that the bill represents a mandate on employers who are already buried in state and federal paperwork. Those who oppose the bill also feel the state should not be in the business of establishing IRA programs for the private sector.

Cook County Pension Reform
Cook County continues to advocate for a pension reform bill in an effort to save the County from further credit downgrades. Although a Cook County pension reform bill, HB 1154 passed in the Senate, it did not have enough votes to pass the House. There will likely be another attempt to move this type of reform legislation.

Manufacturer’s Purchase Credit Extension
The Manufacturer’s Purchase Credit (MPC) expired on August 31, 2014. There were several attempts to pass the MPC extension over the course of the 2013 Veto Session and the 2014 Spring Session. It is expected that there will be another push to extend the MPC during Veto Session that will be retroactive to the purchases after August 31st.

The MPC is a sales-tax-relief credit granted to qualifying manufacturers in Illinois. It is earned when a manufacturer purchases manufacturing or graphic arts machinery and equipment that qualify for existing sales/use tax exemptions. Approximately 500 manufacturing firms qualify for the credit. When a manufacturer earns MPC credits, the firm may use these credits to pay State sales or use taxes on future purchases of qualifying production-related tangible personal property. Many legislators fear that this bill, which is a good idea, will be tacked onto a bad piece of legislation.

Repeal Premium Tax on Industrial Insured’s Captive Insurance
It is expected that legislation will move to reverse the tax hike provisions in SB 3324, which passed the Senate and House unanimously and was signed into law as P.A. 98-978. The bill was a Department of Insurance initiative that was presented to the General Assembly as clarifying an already existing law that surplus line insurance procured from an unauthorized insurer is subject to a 3.5% tax.

The Department’s fact sheet on SB 3324 made no mention of a new tax, closing a loophole, or captive insurance arrangements. The Department now claims that SB 3324 institutes a new tax that applies to an industrial insured’s captive insurance premiums. Examples of industrial insureds that use captive insurance include the City of Chicago airports, cyber liability policies and contractors, nursing homes, and restaurants/taverns that receive more than 25% of their revenue from alcohol sales. When it was discovered that the intention of the bill is to place a tax on industrial insured’s premiums it became apparent that the Department was either disingenuous at the time of SB 3324’s passage or is overaggressive in its interpretation of the bill.

House Republican members actively pursued an amendatory veto of the bill to remove the tax provisions. On August 15th, however, the Governor chose to sign the bill despite business and industry pleas. In response, the House Republican Caucus sent a letter to the Governor and to the director of the Department of Insurance formally requesting that the Department reverse its interpretation of a law that otherwise will increase taxes on Illinois employers. In addition, the House Republican Caucus filed HB 6302 on September 22nd to repeal the tax increase.

Eavesdropping/Police Body Camera Legislation
Legislators have been working on legislation that would create a comprehensive framework for an Illinois eavesdropping statue, including provisions that would govern the use of body cameras by police. The Illinois Supreme Court in March 2014 struck down the state's eavesdropping law, saying it is too broad. Since then, legislators have been working to reach consensus on an eavesdropping law. In addition, HBs 5803 and 5804 are shell bills to authorize and fund police body cameras. The two bills have been posted in the Judiciary Committee for a hearing on November 19th. Many believe, however, that legislation will start in the Senate.




State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) joined Republican lawmakers from across the state on Friday in hosting free Diabetes screening events. The Sandack event, held at Neuco in Downers Grove, was very successful, with 46 employees receiving free diabetes screenings.

"November 15 is World Diabetes Day, and it is important to bring awareness to this condition which affects more and more people every year," said Sandack. "An estimated 800,000 Illinoisans are currently living with diabetes and up to 500,000 of them don't even know they have it."

Sandack partnered with DuPage Immediate Care of Oakbrook Terrace for the two-hour screening event. “Everyone should have a baseline blood glucose test to determine their risk for diabetes,” said Sandack. “With proper diet and exercise, most incidences of diabetes can be managed so that negative side effects can be avoided."

Type I diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Type II diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or when cells ignore insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy.



As you know, SB16 has the potential to severely impact the amount of General State Aid our suburban schools receive. Specifically, schools located in IL House District 81 stand to lose millions under the provisions of SB16:

District Name
SB16 Change in Funding
% Change in Funding
Change Per Student
Naperville 203
-$9,441,776
-76.1%
-$564
Downers Grove 58
-$2,180,761
-73.2%
-$483
Darien 61
-$1,375,861
-83.0%
-$858
Downers Grove 99
-$3,019,941
-77.1%
-$595
Center Cass 66
-$615,214
-76.9%
-$589
Woodridge 68
-$3,212,670
-87.4%
-$1,211

We should all be outraged about this.

Late last Friday a notice was posted scheduling SB16 for a subject matter hearing on Tuesday, November 18, at 3:00 PM in the Capitol. In addition to providing an opportunity for interested persons to testify either in favor of or against a proposed bill in person, the General Assembly also provides an opportunity for testimony to be submitted by people who are unable to attend a hearing. If you are interested in making sure your opinion is part of the official record for SB16, here are the steps for submitting written testimony:

1.   Go to www.ilga.gov

2. Scroll down the page and click on GA Dashboard (in red ink along the left side of the page)

3. Click on the Register icon and fill in your information (registration is recommended but not required)

4. Click on House, Committee Hearings, and then on the “Month” tab

5. Click on the piece of paper icon to the right of the listed hearing (November 18th, Appropriations- Elementary & Secondary Education)

6. Click on Create witness slip

7. Fill out the form

8. In the “subject matter” portion click “opponent”

9. Under “Testimony” you can have your written comments supplied to all committee members. This is optional. Interestingly, they do not accept emailed testimony. You can fax your written statement to 217-557-2165 or you may mail it to Illinois State House, Room 426, 401 S. Second Street, Springfield, IL 62706. Make sure that your written testimony is clearly marked at the top of the page: SB16 Testimony, and your name.

10. Fill in verification code

11. Click the box to accept the terms

12. Click Submit

*If registered, you can go back and adjust your witness slip. If you do not register, once it is submitted you may not change your witness slip.

If you have additional questions about the process, please visit the FAQ page at: http://my.ilga.gov/Home/FAQ .


Sandack Co-Sponsors Bill to Provide New Protections for Schools against Unfunded Mandates
When school started across Illinois this year, districts had 24 new unfunded mandates that had to be implemented. These requirements were passed along to school districts with no accompanying revenue source. Last Wednesday I signed on as a Chief Co-Sponsor of legislation that would help protect school districts against future mandates.

HB6315, filed in Springfield on November 5, would end a current practice of unfunded mandates being approved by a committee with no involvement by the General Assembly. Today, the State Board of Education (ISBE) can bring mandates in the form of rules to the State’s Joint Commission onAdministrative Rules (JCAR) for review and approval.  With education dollars in short supply and high demand, passing along these unfunded mandates places a real hardship on schools. Every member of the House and Senate should have an opportunity to weigh in.

As written, HB6315 would amend the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act by providing that for any rule that would affect the operations of school districts, any citizen may request that JCAR determine whether the rule represents an unfunded mandate. If JCAR determines that a rule is indeed an unfunded mandate, JCAR must then halt its consideration until the rule has been approved and acknowledged as an unfunded mandate by a joint resolution of the General Assembly.

I don’t argue that many of the mandates are well-meaning, but school districts are already having a difficult time balancing their budgets. As a General Assembly we need to do what we can to stop heaping new requirements upon them.

Fracking Rules Approved; Jobs and Opportunity Coming to Southern Illinois 
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting fossil fuels from shale rock layers deep within the earth, in places that were once unreachable. A significant deposit of New Albany shale, believed to be oil-rich, lies underneath many counties of southeastern Illinois. Because of the economic boom that has been seen in other states that allow fracking, Illinois approved a strictfracking law in May of 2013. The law directed the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to write the rules that would govern fracking activity in the state. Last week, after 18 months of negotiations and attempts by anti-fracking advocates to encourage the DNR to write rules which effectively banned fracking altogether, final rules were approved.

The approval of the rules marked a key step in unlocking Illinois’ oil-bearing shale for drilling and production.  The new rules will soon be filed with the Secretary of State’s office in their final form, which will in turn green-light the Department to begin accepting and granting permits for drilling.  Actual Illinois drilling activity will remain contingent on the fluctuations of global prices for crude oil.  In addition, anti-fracking advocates have pledged to try to stop the new rules by filing lawsuits in Illinois courts, and tying up the new industry in litigation.    

For more on the approval of the new fracking rules, please visit The Caucus Blog.

Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner Names Transition Team; Prepares for January 12 Inauguration 
Preparing for his inauguration as the 42nd Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner hit the ground running last week by naming the five leaders and 26 committee members of his transition team.  Chaired by winning Lieutenant Governor candidate Evelyn Sanguinetti, the transition team will examine the credentials of the men and women of all parties who want to help lead Illinois’s troubled state government from 2015-2019.  The team’s director will be Rauner deputy campaign manager Mike Zolnierowicz, who, on Friday, was also named as Rauner’s Chief of Staff for his four-year term.  Names familiar to Illinois on the full transition team include former Governor Jim Edgar, Congressman Aaron Schock, former congressman Glenn Poshard, and former presidential chief of staff Bill Daley. The complete list of transition team members can be found in the two links found above in this article.

Naming a transition team is traditionally one of the first things done by a successful candidate for executive office.  Bruce Rauner was elected Governor of Illinois on Tuesday, November 4, defeating incumbent Pat Quinn.  Inauguration Day, which is set in Article V of the Illinois Constitution for the second Monday in January, will be held on Monday, January 12, 2015.

General Assembly Continues to Plan Ebola Preparedness
The Appropriations – Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on epidemic preparedness on Monday, November 10, in Chicago.  Asked to testify will be leaders from public-sector agencies tasked with containing Ebola, the Illinois Hospital Association; and representatives from the Illinois primary healthcare sector.  Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Department of Public Health (DPH), has been asked to testify and present an overview of Illinois’ existing preparedness efforts.

The Department is posting their Ebola preparedness initiatives online.  Initiatives include cooperating with the federal Departmentof Homeland Security to identify and isolate potential patients arriving at O’Hare International Airport; rapid transport of potential patients to places of isolation and diagnosis; and, if necessary, compulsory home quarantine of patients and potential patients.  DPH is cooperating with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency should this virus become contagious in Illinois, and IEMA’s director, Jonathan Monken, has also been asked to testify before the Committee.  

The hearing is expected to contain calls by affected professionals and healthcare sectors for more funding to fight Ebola and related healthcare challenges.

Amazon.com Warehouse Plans Announced
The Seattle-based universal retailer Amazon.com has announced plans to open a mega-warehouse in Illinois.  Site selection will soon begin for the Chicago-area facility, which will require a large footprint to meet expected expansion plans.  The $75 million facility, which will be designed to provide for next-day delivery of a wide variety of products available on the firm’s website, could create as many as 1,000 jobs by 2017. 

While Illinois will welcome the jobs and economic activity created by the new facility, a quirk in existing sales tax law could lead to changes in the Amazon store-customer relationship.  Under existing law, if a customer buys something through Amazon.com that is shipped from a warehouse located outside of Illinois, it is the responsibility of the customer to pay sales tax on the item purchased.  The Department of Revenue prints a line on its annual income tax forms for sales taxes due.  If Amazon.com builds a warehouse that is physically located in Illinois, however, the firm will take on the responsibility of charging and collecting sales tax on items purchased for shipment to an Illinois address.  The tax will be identical to that charged by physical brick-and-mortar retailers in the customer’s municipality. 

Happy Veterans Day
Tomorrow the nation will celebrate Veterans Day. I hope you find time to attend a Veterans Day appreciation event, or at least take a few minutes to reflect on the sacrifices and service of those who protect our freedoms. The history of Veterans Day dates back to the end of World War I. The war ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany, went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

 In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
Concerned about the number of unfunded mandates that school districts across Illinois must absorb, State Representative Ron Sandack (R- Downers Grove) has signed on as a Chief Co-Sponsor of legislation that would help protect school districts against future mandates.

HB6315, filed in Springfield on November 5, would end a current practice of unfunded mandates being approved by a committee with no involvement by the General Assembly. “Today, the State Board of Education (ISBE) can bring mandates in the form of rules to the State’s Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR) for review and approval,” said Sandack.  “With education dollars in short supply and high demand, passing along these unfunded mandates places a real hardship on schools. Every member of the House and Senate should have an opportunity to weigh in.”

As written, HB6315 would amend the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act by providing that for any rule that would affect the operations of school districts, any citizen may request that JCAR determine whether the rule represents an unfunded mandate. If JCAR determines that a rule is indeed an unfunded mandate, JCAR must then halt its consideration until the rule has been approved and acknowledged as an unfunded mandate by a joint resolution of the General Assembly.

“Each State Representative in Illinois is elected to represent the interests of approximately 108,000 Illinois citizens,” said Sandack. “When these regulations are approved by JCAR and lawmakers are not involved in the process, citizen voices are not being represented.”

According to the Illinois Association of School Boards, there are currently hundreds of unfunded mandates on the books for schools, and this school year alone, districts had to comply with 24 new requirements that did not have funding attached to them.

“I don’t argue that many of the mandates are well-meaning,” said Sandack. “But school districts are already having a difficult time balancing their budgets, and as a General Assembly we need to do what we can to stop heaping new requirements upon them.”

Tomorrow is Election Day; Make Sure Your Voice is Heard
President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” These are wise words from a great President. Your vote is your voice as a citizen of Illinois and of America. It is your opportunity to be heard, to hold your elected officials accountable for their decisions and to have a say in the issues that affect your community. Make sure your voice is heard tomorrow on Election Day, and make sure you vote. The DuPageCounty Clerk’s web site has an easy-to-use interactive tool that can assist with finding proper polling places. Polls are open from 6:00 AM until 7:00 PM, and if you have any questions about voting, you can call the County Clerk’s office at 630-407-5600. In Will County, the Clerk has posted a “VoterLook-Up” page that allows voters to check the status of their voter registration and find their polling place. If you have questions about voting in Will County, you may reach the Clerk’s office at (815) 740-4615.

Federal Judge Orders Appointment of Outside Monitor to Oversee IDOT Hiring Process
The hiring and promotion of senior-level officials at the IllinoisDepartment of Transportation has come under serious scrutiny in recent months. The revelation that substantial numbers of the Department’s top positions were unilaterally “exempted” from State law forbidding political hiring in positions made headlines throughout Illinois. Questions about IDOT hiring deepened after the surprise departure of former Director Ann Schneider in late June 2014.

IDOT has ongoing, multi-billion-dollar responsibilities for the construction and rebuilding of Illinois roads, bridges, airports, and railroad lines. However, accusations have continued to reverberate, with nonpartisan figures led by Michael Shakman raising questions about the Department, its top staff, and their potential partisan conflicts of interest.

One way to increase a focus on potential political hiring at IDOT, and to start what could be the lengthy process of cleaning up the troubled agency, is to hire a federal monitor to oversee IDOT’s hiring decisions. Public watchdog Shakman had standing, based on his previous case work, to ask a court to order this be done. On Wednesday, October 22, federal magistrate judge Sidney Shenkier issued a court order to IDOT to hire monitor Noelle Brennan. Brennan will have the right to scrutinize any hiring decision made by IDOT, but is expected to concentrate on positions defined as implementation positions. Holders of implementation positions don’t make policy, and their officeholders should not be hired for political reasons. Holders of policy positions, by contrast, shape the policies that others implement. These positions typically include the highest-ranking aides to the director of the Department; however, in a patronage-ridden agency people sometimes become political hires even if their standing is far below the policymaking level. The Chicago Tribune describes Brennan’s hiring in this editorial. The Jacksonville Journal-Courier praises Judge Shenkier’s decision here.

State OKs New High-Tension Power Line in Northern Illinois
The 345-kilovolt (kV) ComEd line will create a supply pipeline for up to 1,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity to metropolitan Chicago. The 70-mile line is scheduled to start near Byron, in Ogle County, and pass through DeKalb, Kane, and DuPage Counties on its way to energy consumers in the six counties of greater Chicago. Controversy over the decision centered on the $250-million line’s passage past several areas of significant population density, including the city of Elgin. Some believe that high-tension power lines are toxic, dangerous, or ugly, and that ComEd has not met the burden of documentation required to prove that constructing the high-tension line is in the public interest.

In supporting documentation filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission, ComEd reported that the new Grand Prairie Gateway 345-KV line will provide increased access to Chicago for non-carbon-based electrical generation. Although renewable electricity can come from a wide variety of sources, it is expected that the new power will overwhelmingly be generated by wind farms located in northwestern Illinois, Iowa, and states even further west. A wide variety of wind farms, with nameplate generating capacities of 100 MW and up, are sprouting throughout the American Midwest.

The Illinois Commerce Commission’s decision in favor of Grand Prairie Gateway, reached on Wednesday, October 22, is described by Platt’s, the energy industry journal. Construction of the ComEd line is scheduled to start in the second quarter of calendar year 2015, with the new line going into operation no later than June 1, 2017.

Legislators Meet with Agencies to Discuss Domestic Violence Prevention
On October 29, I joined Representative Patti Bellock and Senator Michael Connelly for a breakfast meeting with advocates who work tirelessly to address domestic violence issues in Illinois. A lot of good information was shared, and we discussed domestic violence prevention, legislation and other related topics. Illinois is very fortunate to have dedicated people who are working hard to help strengthen laws that punish offenders and protect victims. Noelle Dupuis, JD, Director of Policy, IL Coalition against Domestic Violence, is shown in the photo.

Study by Arizona State University (ASU) Ranks Illinois 45th in Job Creation
Job growth in Illinois the first nine months of 2014 was less than 1% of total Illinois employment.  According to the Illinois Department of EmploymentSecurity, more than 5.8 million Illinois residents are employed in the nonfarm sector.  After hundreds of thousands of jobs disappeared in the 2008-2014 “Great Recession,” Illinois has struggled to recover the lost ground. 

36,000 new jobs were created in Illinois in the first nine months of 2014.  By contrast, Texas created more than 362,000 new jobs in the same period, achieving job growth of 3.2% as opposed to Illinois’ 0.6%.  Energy-rich states that have legalized horizontal-shale drilling for crude oil and natural gas scored well in the ASU study, with North Dakota ranked #1 among the 50 states and Texas #3.

Illinois unemployment remains at recession levels, notching in at 6.6% in September 2014.  The story was published in the ChicagoTribune on Tuesday, October 28.

Continued Controversy Surrounds Massive Fare Hike Request 
While the governing board of Metra has presented its ten-year, 68% fare-hike-ramp-up plan as a way to garner cash flow for new infrastructure, the agency’s actual spending plans call for dedicating the first year’s fare hike to pension funding and employee compensation (particularly employee and retiree health care), not new trains.

Metra, the public-sector agency that operates eleven commuter railroad lines in the Chicago area, shares the pension-funding crisis borne by other unionized public-sector employers throughout Illinois.  A variety of public-sector employees, including Metra train workers, have been promised generous retirement packages.  The ChicagoTribune points out that commuters will pay more in 2015 for their train tickets but will find themselves riding on the same old railroad cars and slow, jolting roadbeds. 

Metra is the commuter-train operating board of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), the three-operating-board umbrella panel that governs overall Chicago-area mass transit policies.  The two other RTA operating boards, the Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA) and Pace, the suburban bus agency, face pension and personnel-compensation challenges similar to Metra.  

I serve on the House Mass Transit Committee, and I will be following the Metra 68% fare hike issue very closely. I am very concerned about the level of the proposed fare hike and believe most riders will find that kind of increase to be excessive and unaffordable. 

Legislators Come Together to Promote Diabetes Awareness
November is Diabetes Awareness Month in Illinois and many Illinois lawmakers are coming together to help share information and prevention/management strategies about this growing health crisis.

The statistics on this disease are startling. An estimated 800,000 Illinoisans are living with diabetes and up to 500,000 of them don’t even know they have it. Even more disheartening is a statistic that suggests that by 2050 a fully 1/3 of the country’s population will have diabetes. Diabetes is diagnosed as either Type I or Type II. Type I Diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. The far more common Type II Diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn't make enough insulin. In both instances, diabetes can usually be managed with diet, exercise and medication.

In the Spring of 2010, Illinois formed the country’s first legislative diabetes caucus. This bipartisan group of State Representatives and Senators promotes sound diabetes policy development and awareness. As part of the awareness campaign, I will be holding a free diabetes screening event on Friday, November 14, from 8:00-10:00 AM at a Neuro Co. in Downers Grove. In partnership with DuPage Immediate Care, which will administer the blood draws, all Neuco employees will be encouraged to receive a screening, and employees from neighboring businesses will be invited to stop by for a screening. The Downers Grove screening event is just one of several screenings that will be taking place that day.