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In an effort to give local schools, school boards and educators more control over their curriculum offerings, State Representative Ron Sandack is looking to the four year physical education requirement as a place to start.

"In Illinois, our high school students only have to take three years of mathematics, two years of science and two years of social studies; yet they are currently required to take four years of physical education," said Sandack.  "Students looking for AP courses, music courses or other electives are often left stuck taking a physical education course regardless of their situation or need for other opportunities."

House Bill 1330 would eliminate this requirement affording schools boards, teachers and students  more flexibility and choice in setting their own priorities. Schools can still require physical education; however, the key difference is that they would be left with the discretion to do so in the most effective way possible.

If you would like to support Sandack's efforts to provide schools choice in their own physical education requirements you can sign his petition.

Click here to Support House Bill 1330.
This week State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) and Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) sat down with Chicago Tonight's Carol Marin to discuss Governor Rauner's FY16 budget blueprint.

You can listen in here.
Governor Rauner Presents Turnaround Budget Blue Print
The budget address for fiscal year 2016 (FY16) presented by Governor Bruce Rauner to the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, February 18 offered  many challenges to traditional spending patterns in Springfield.  Serious cuts were suggested on a wide variety of expenditures, especially in areas covered by General Revenue Fund spending ($31.5 billion).  Gov. Rauner says Illinois taxation and spending has, for too long, been on autopilot and that he was elected to pull the State’s government out of a financial death spiral.

“Even after we solve this fiscal year’s crisis, we will still be left with a budget hole of $6.2 billion for the coming fiscal year,” the newly-elected Governor told lawmakers.  “Waste and inefficiency are rampant in our current system,” he reported.  “To be compassionate, we must be competitive.”

The State’s budgetary challenges are no secret, but under Gov. Rauner, these challenges are actually being acknowledged and addressed.  For the first time in a decade, the Governor and General Assembly are starting the budgetary process grounded by the reality of matching revenues with expenditures while paying our required obligations.  Gov. Rauner has set a revenue estimate of $32 billion with a clear directive to make that number work. 

The Governor’s introduced FY16 budget is a sobering look, but one that is built on several core priorities: public safety, education and paying our bills.  The General Assembly is beginning to review this budget and its impact on Illinoisans and will soon be making recommendations as to our shared priorities.  There are hard times to come, but in the end, the goal of turning around Illinois must be accomplished.

General Assembly Welcomes State Representative Avery Bourne
State Representative Avery Bourne (R-Litchfield) was sworn in Wednesday morning to her first term as 95th District State Representative. Bourne is taking the seat vacated by former State Representative Wayne Rosenthal, who now heads the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Bourne, a native of Montgomery County and a law student at Washington University in St. Louis, was sworn in by Judge John Schmidt.

Caterpillar, Inc. to Build New, Expanded World Headquarters in Peoria
On hand for the announcement of Caterpillar’s new world headquarters in Peoria, Illinois House Republicans praised the Caterpillar decision and commitment to retaining their headquarters in Illinois.

The decision to build their new headquarters was announced on Friday, February 20, at the Caterpillar Visitors Center by Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman before a crowd of state and local dignitaries and leaders.  Caterpillar’s new corporate campus will be built in a largely expanded footprint extending several blocks around Caterpillar’s current headquarters.  The total campus size when completed will occupy over 31 acres of Downtown Peoria along the Illinois River.  The new headquarters will be a three tower building spanning six city blocks.

Caterpillar Inc., traded on the New York Stock Exchange, is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  In 2014, the firm posted worldwide revenue of $55.6 billion and net income of $5.7 billion.  The firm’s headquarters oversees more than 125,000 employees in facilities located on six continents, including 3,200 employees in downtown Peoria.  Caterpillar’s yellow-and-black logo leads a wide variety of global brands that are stamped on fixed and mobile machinery used in construction, power generation, railroading, and many off-road uses.   

Fundraising Basketball Game Benefits District 58 Education Foundation
A great time was had by all last week at a District 58 Education Foundation fundraising basketball game against the Harlem Wizards. I had the honor of serving as a volunteer referee as District 58 students, teachers, principals and community members took to the court against the Wizards, who showcased their fancy footwork, slam dunks and comedy before a huge crowd. While the Wizards won the game 75-53, the real winners are the students of District 58, who will benefit from the money raised at the event.

Illinois House Committee to Hold Hearing on Controversial PARCC Test
I am a member of the House Education – School Curriculum and Policies Committee, and next week we will meet on Wednesday, February 25, to take testimony on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test mandate.  The hearing is scheduled to be held at 4:00 p.m. in Room 114 of the State Capitol. 

During the hearing we are expected to hear concerns from affected parents, teachers, and representatives of school districts.  Many people are opposed to both the new test and to the way it is being implemented here in Illinois.  Educators have raised concerns about inadequate technology, lack of testing infrastructure to match the spaces required to administer the test, overall school funding issues as they intersect with this test mandate, and issues of student preparation for the test.  Procedural challenges include questions of whether this test has been sprung on Illinois school districts, teachers, students, and parents and whether they received adequate warning of this new mandate.  

Defenders of the test assert that many notifications of this test mandate went out to school districts.  They further assert that contracts have already been signed to administer the test and that the test is being enforced by a hard mandate from the federal Department of Education.  Sections of federal law direct the Department to withhold major subcategories of federal school aid from the school districts of a state that is not in compliance with nationwide testing mandates. 

House Starts Schedule of Spring 2015 Hearings
Under the Rules of the House, all House Bills and most amendments are looked at and debated by committees.  Members of these committees have been named previously, but the panels themselves started to meet and hear testimony and remarks from advocates and witnesses this week.  House committees can approve, reject , or hold the bill for further debate.  Personally this week, I had one bill, HB405, approved by the Counties & Townships Committee. That bill will be forwarded to the House Floor for formal debate and vote.

Potential committee actions are posted in the General Assembly Dashboard prior to each committee hearing and Illinois voters are welcome to follow issues they are interested in.  In some cases, voter-advocates may need to submit a position for or against a bill.  Persons interested in filing an online position on a posted bill should register on the ILGA Dashboard.  Consult the Dashboard FAQ for further guidance on the registration process.      

Naperville Opens Doors for New Hazardous Waste Recycling Facility
While I was in Springfield this week, my staff attended a ribbon cutting for Naperville’s new hazardous waste recycling facility. It is one of only four facilities of its kind in Illinois, and some of the materials accepted include: aerosol cans, asbestos, auto, marine & sump pump batteries, fire extinguishers, mercury, paint, peanut oil, poison, medications and propane tanks. A complete list of accepted items can be found at www.naperville.il.us/hhw.aspx. The facility is located at 156 Fort Hill Drive next to the Public Works Service Center. It is open Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM, excluding holidays. Materials will not be accepted outside of their posted hours of operation.

In response to Governor Bruce Rauner’s Budget Address on Wednesday, State Representative Ron Sandack has issued the following statement:

“After years and years of overspending, it should come as a surprise to no one that the day of reckoning has arrived. Today we heard a bold budget plan that addresses the financial crisis and puts our great state on a fiscally-sustainable path. I look forward to working with Governor Rauner and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as we make decisions that may be difficult in the short term, but will serve the people of Illinois very well in the long run.

“Today marks the beginning of a budget revolution in Illinois. Governor Rauner has presented an honest path forward and lawmakers will need to summon all of their political courage in making tough and unpopular decisions that will right our financial ship. The state’s financial crisis was decades in the making and it will not be solved overnight.

“While the specifics of Governor Rauner’s budget plan were difficult to hear, today’s speech was refreshing, in that it was a responsible and honest presentation of facts. We’ve spent far too much for far too long, and we must tighten our belts and live within our means. The Governor’s proposal is a solid first step and I look forward to working in a bipartisan manner to put a final, balanced budget in place during the next few months.

“I was glad to hear the Governor say that before any discussion about increasing revenues occurs, lawmakers need to ensure that taxpayers are getting value for their money. Asking taxpayers for more of their hard-earned money without first making the structural reforms that are necessary to maximize efficiency would be irresponsible.”
State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) filed a bill today that would remove the five-day-per-week mandate for physical education classes for students in Illinois.

Illinois is the only state that currently requires all K-12 students to participate in daily physical education classes at school. Sandack’s bill, HB1330, would eliminate the mandate and allow local leaders to decide how much PE should be required in their schools.

“It has long been my opinion that decisions regarding education are best left to the local level,” said Sandack. “HB1330 allows parents and school boards to control the curriculum as it relates to physical education for their students.”

The bill seeks to amend the School Code and put decisions regarding PE participation firmly into the hands of local school districts. “This bill does not seek to eliminate physical education in our schools,” said Sandack. “It simply puts the decision-making power for PE curriculum matters into the hands of local boards of education.”

Sandack pointed to childhood obesity statistics as proof that daily PE is not producing healthier students. “I think a lot of people would have expected the childhood obesity rate to drop once daily PE was mandated in our schools,” said Sandack. “We just haven’t seen it. The childhood obesity rate is still unacceptably high, and there has been no proof that daily PE has changed the trend in Illinois.”

While he supports the elimination of the PE mandate, Sandack maintains that daily physical activity is very important for all people. “No one is debating the value of daily physical activity,” Sandack said. “But I firmly believe that parents and local boards of educations are quite capable of making decisions that are in the best interests of students.”

 HB1330 has been assigned to the House Elementary & Secondary Education: Curriculum & Policies Committee.
Rauner Forms Government Consolidation, Unfunded Mandates Commission
With a goal of reducing property taxes paid by Illinois property owners and homeowners, Governor Bruce Rauner on Friday asked Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti to head a new task force that will look at opportunities for savings from the consolidation of taxing bodies.

I am pleased to see government consolidation emerging as a priority for our new governor. I have personally sponsored several pieces of legislation over the last few years that would facilitate consolidation efforts for local governments. In the current General Assembly, I am a sponsor of the following consolidation initiatives:
  • HJRCA03: Eliminates the Offices of the Comptroller and Treasurer and combines the functions into one office.
  • HB174: Provides that electors may submit a petition for a referendum to dissolve a non-home rule unit of local government.
  • HB228: Prohibits the General Assembly from creating any new units of local government for four years.
  • HB229: Expands statewide a current DuPage County law that assists with intra-governmental cooperation and the reduction of redundant units of local government. 

Illinois currently has 6,963 units of local government.  It is #1 in this metric; none of the other 50 states top 6,000 units.  Bodies with the power to extend property taxes include school and community college districts, of which Illinois has 905 (#3 nationwide); 1,431 township governments (#3 nationwide), 3,227 special district governments, such as drainage districts and mosquito abatement districts (#1 nationwide), and 1,298 municipal governments (#1 nationwide).

The Lt. Governor’s task force will look into both unfunded mandates and the possible existence of redundant units of local government.  The members will conduct a comprehensive review of State laws that impose burdens on local schools and governments, and their taxpayers.  They are asked to report their findings to the Governor and the General Assembly no later than December 31, 2015.      

Task Force Created to Look at Criminal Justice Policy
With a goal of reducing State budget growth while maintaining security for Illinois residents and families, last week Governor Rauner unveiled a commission to look at criminal justice sentencing policies in Illinois. The task force will have the full participation of Illinois’ law enforcement community, which is interested in studying the Code of Corrections to see how to lower the number of inmate while ensuring the safety to the public.  The new Task Force has been asked to report its findings to the Governor and General Assembly by December 31, 2015.  
      
One of the underlying causes of Illinois’ mushrooming budget is the cost of guarding tens of thousands of Illinois’ criminals, including many nonviolent criminals, in State prisons, county jails, and county detention centers.  State prisons alone are holding inmates at 150 percent of design capacity.  The Illinois Department of Corrections budget is $1.3 billion/year paid by taxpayers, with additional hundreds of millions spent by county sheriffs to maintain jails for low-level felons and misdemeanors. 

Illinois to Move more than 2 Million Medicaid Recipients to Managed Care
Managed health care is a way of life for millions of working Illinois residents and their families who are covered through the private sector.  Up until now, however, the more than 3.1 million Illinoisans who are enrolled in the State’s Medicaid system have used a more costly traditional fee-for-service model.
 
In Medicaid-reformmoves pushed by Assistant Republican Leader Patti Bellock starting in 2011, as many Medicaid recipients as legally possible are now being transitioned to the more cost effective managed care program.    More than two-thirds of the affected patients, 2.2 million, are within or will soon be within this new system.  The move, supported by Governor Rauner, is being implemented by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services

Budget experts believe that managed care may well reduce future medical expenses borne by the State.  Managed care can be used to give physicians and other caregivers an incentive to reduce future health complications.  The Chicago Tribune describes the move here.

Labor Union Dues: Governor Finds State Employee Paycheck Deduction Unconstitutional
Under the law up until last week, State employees who do not want to join a labor union have been required to have monies deducted from their paychecks anyway in each pay period.  The monies so deducted are pad over to the union.  Called a “fair share” deduction, the subtraction is described as providing recompense to the union for providing representation to the non-member State worker.  On Monday, February 9, Gov. Rauner issued Executive Order 1513. The new order, if it clears legal challenges, could authorize State workers to ask that these deductions be cancelled.  Current employee logs show that approximately 6,500 State workers are in “fair share” status – they are not members of the unions that have organized their workplaces, but are subject to mandatory paycheck deductions under the practice in place prior to the new executive order.

Rauner’s finding follows recent federal Supreme Court case law.  In a decision involving a family provider of home health care, the nation’s highest court found in the decision “Harris v. Quinn” that a major union (SEIU) had no right to force the family provider to pay dues-like fair share payments to the union for services not chosen by the person paying the dues.  Executive Order 1513 seeks to apply this principle across the State’s workforce.  “These forced union dues are a critical cog,” asserted the Governor, “in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers.” 

Nothing in the executive order prevents state employees who value their union membership from continuing to belong to the union as dues-paying members. The order is expected to be challenged in the General Assembly, challenged by litigation, or fought through both pathways. Implementation of the order has been stayed pending resolution of the issue.

Sandack Mobile Office Hours Set for Friday
Each year my highly-trained office staff travels throughout the 81st Legislative House District and offers mobile office hours in the communities that comprise the District. This Friday, February 20, our 2015 mobile office hours initiative will be launched with a 10:00AM-noon event at the Downers Grove Public Library. The library is located at 1050 Curtiss Street, and no appointment is needed. The office hours are open to all residents who live near the library.
State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) will be holding mobile office hours throughout the 81st Legislative District this year to provide residents with easy access to his knowledgeable staff.

Mobile office hours will be held next week on Friday, February 20 at the Downers Grove Public Library, 1050 Curtiss Street, from 10:00AM until noon.

“While my District Office staff always welcomes questions and concerns and are always available to assist constituents with state services, I understand that the office location is not convenient for all residents of the 81st legislative district,” said Sandack. “Therefore, I am bringing my office to the people with a series of mobile office hours at locations throughout the area. At these events, my staff will collect questions and concerns and help residents access state services.”

No appointment is needed, and office hours are open to all residents near the designated locations.


“Additional mobile office hours will be scheduled throughout the year, and I encourage anyone who is having problems with a state agency or who wants to know more about available state programs to take advantage of our mobile office hours,” Sandack said.