Latest News

Save the Date: Sandack’s 2015 Senior Fair Scheduled for September 11
Seniors from the 81st Legislative House District are invited to attend a free Senior Fair on Friday, September 11 in Downers Grove. This year’s fair will be held from 10:00 a.m. until noon at the Downers Grove Park District’s Lincoln Center Auditorium, 935 Maple Avenue. Participants can visit booths staffed by agencies that assist seniors, and register for a chance to win a door prize. Helpful guides, literature and other resources from state, county and local government agencies will also be available, and refreshments will be served. I hope to see a great turn out for this annual event!

In Spite of Court Orders, Many Providers of State-Financed Services Report They are Not Being Paid
With regard to a case involving the operation of networks of residential care services for persons with developmental disabilities, a federal judge has ordered that the state pay the networks, and the Comptroller has reported that Illinois does not have the money to immediately comply. Approximately 10,000 persons with developmental disabilities are affected.

Based on policies supported by the majority party in the General Assembly, the State is spending general funds – money raised by income taxes, sales taxes, and other non-dedicated sources of revenue – at a rate of between $37.4 billion and $38.2 billion per year. Many policymakers, headed by Governor Bruce Rauner, are asking the General Assembly to look at the underlying policies that generate this level of spending.

Illinois House Meets, Again Fails to Take Budget Action
The summer session day of the Illinois General Assembly was held on Tuesday, August 25. Although this was the 14th such House summer session day called by the House Speaker since the “adjournment” of the state legislature on May 31st, no workable State budget has been produced and the Speaker’s leadership team did no work this week to generate one.

In its session on the 25th, the House heard from witnesses who described growing challenges to them based on the failure of the State to set aside funds for roads and street repair, child care services and other essential public infrastructure and programs.

New Law Forbids Hospitals, Providers from Billing Sexual Assault Survivors for Outpatient Services
HB 3848 was signed into law on Monday, August 24. It creates a billing protocol and a voucher system for hospital emergency and forensic outpatient services provided to sexual assault survivors. Under this system, these outpatient services will be billed to the State of Illinois or to the survivor’s insurance system, if any.

Additional language within HB 3848 forbids a provider of health care services to a sexual assault survivor from carrying out certain enumerated aggressive billing and collection procedures for all other non-outpatient services that may have been provided to a survivor, including inpatient services and follow-up healthcare. Prohibited collection procedures include references to collection agencies or attorneys. House Republican Representative Patti Bellock was a co-sponsor of HB 3848, which was approved in the Illinois House by a vote of 111-0-0. This was good, common sense legislation that I was proud to support.

Sandack Attends Leadership Academy
Last week I was honored to be one of 33 lawmakers from 10 Midwestern states and four Canadian provinces who attended the Council of State Governments’ Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development (BILLD). The program offered a unique opportunity for legislators to improve their leadership skills and explore the issues of the day with nationally renowned scholars, professional development experts, and legislative leaders and colleagues from across the region. The overall goal of BILLD is to help newer legislators develop the skills necessary to become effective leaders, informed decision-makers and astute policy analysts.

Since 1995, more than 675 lawmakers have graduated from the Bowhay Institute. State legislators from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin are chosen to participate through a competitive, nonpartisan selection process. Members of the Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan legislative assemblies are selected by their caucuses to take part in the program. It was an incredibly informative conference, and I gained some very valuable insight.

Department of Employment Security (IDES) Announces Drop in Illinois’ July Jobless Rate
The key number dropped to 5.8% in July 2015, down from 5.9% in June 2015 and substantially down from the year-earlier rate of 6.7% in July 2014. However, Illinois unemployment rates remained substantially higher than the nationwide total in July. The overall U.S. jobless number was 5.3% in July. The new numbers were released on Thursday, August 20.

“Since the beginning of this year,” reported IDES director Jeff Mays, “Illinois has gained only a quarter of the job growth seen by the rest of the country.” Based upon current trend lines and slow private sector re-hiring patterns, Illinois should complete its task of recovering from jobs lost in the 2008-09 economic downturn on or about September 2016 – seven years after the official end of the downturn. IDES tracks jobless rates, operates a workforce-based website that matches jobs to applicants and operates the State’s unemployment insurance program.

Other U.S. states, including Midwestern states such as Indiana and Iowa, have rapidly added jobs during the 2009-15 recovery and enjoy unemployment rates much lower than Illinois. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that for July 2015, the unemployment rate was 4.7% in Indiana, 3.8% in Iowa, 5.2% in Kentucky and 4.6% in Wisconsin.

Caterpillar to Lay Off 300 in Peoria Area
The announcement made on Tuesday, August 25, was part of an overall cutback of 475 customer service managers and support staff. The Peoria-based global machinery manufacturer stated that the layoffs, which would be carried out as part of a program to consolidate customer service responsibilities, would be implemented over a period of several months.

Caterpillar’s announcement closely followed reports of a significant economic downturn in China. The sale of construction equipment and mining/quarrying machinery to Asian customers had been a bright spot in Caterpillar’s overall business picture, and Wall Street commentators suggested this week that the Chinese stock market crash could reduce demand for Caterpillar products and services.

Illinois House Committee Discusses Bill that Could Provide for Municipal Bankruptcy
Current State and federal laws allow individuals and private-sector firms to seek relief from their debts through U.S. bankruptcy court; but Illinois public-sector entities, such as municipalities, are not allowed to file under Chapter 9. Debt-strapped municipalities in other states, most notably Detroit, Michigan, have used state and federal laws to reorganize their operations, reduce their debts and provide incentives to new residents.

Many taxpayers and even some municipal leaders would like Illinois law to grant the option of bankruptcy to Illinois local governments as a last resort. This year I filed and championed HB 4214, a measure that would provide local governments with a bankruptcy option. While the measure did not advance in the 2015 spring session, continued fiscal pressures on units of Illinois local government – particularly unfunded pension liabilities – have kept this issue on the table in the summer of 2015. On Tuesday, August 25, the House Personnel and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the issue in Springfield. The committee heard from advocates who called for consideration of this option as a way to grant relief to local property taxpayers. In some cases such as Detroit, owners of real estate in failing cities have been trapped in a death spiral of mushrooming fixed costs, property disinvestment, and soaring tax bills on depreciating real property. You can hear a portion of my committee comments here.

Chicago-Area Price Spike May be Receding
A sharp movement upward in the Chicago-area prices of most gasoline-based motor fuels may be stabilizing in the wake of an announcement by local refiner BP plc that they are taking steps to resume full operations in Whiting, Indiana. A balky distillation unit is being restarted, with output set to ramp up over time toward the resumption of full production by the key refinery. The Whiting plant is fitted to distill and refine the low-ozone “non-attainment gas” that, by federal law, must be sold throughout the ten-county Chicago-Northwest Indiana metropolitan area. BP released the news of progress at the Whiting plant on Tuesday, August 25.

Any reduction in supplies of this specialty Chicago-area gasoline will swiftly cause increases in the prices of Chicago-area gasoline and gas-based motor fuels, including gasohol. The Whiting incident, first reported on Tuesday, August 18, led to sharp increases in pump prices throughout the Chicago area. Some pump prices in the city of Chicago were well above $4.00 per gallon. Chicago motor fuel prices include taxes charged by the State of Illinois, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Cook County and the city.

The Chicago-area nonattainment zone is mapped here. Gasoline and gasoline-based motor fuels sold within this ten-county area must conform to federal guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for the reduction of ozone.

O’Hare Airport Closes Diagonal Runway
The runway had been slated for closure as part of the airport’s expansion program. Airport management and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had cited the strip of concrete for intersecting other runways and leading to possible public-safety hazards. The Chicago Aviation Commission, operator of O’Hare, quietly closed the runway on the night of Wednesday, August 21. Traffic formerly active on this runway has been diverted to other airport runways.

Advocates for keeping that runway in operation had pointed to the potential offered by the veteran diagonal runway in sharing the noise of takeoffs and landings over a wider footprint of properties surrounding the busy international airport. O’Hare’s current plan to concentrate its operations on east-west runways will, by contrast, concentrate airport noise on owners and properties located east and west of the airport. Another diagonal runway is slated for closure in 2020.

The de-certified runway has not yet been physically torn up or demolished. House Republican Representative Michael McAuliffe is co-sponsoring a bill, SB 637, which would forbid this runway from being demolished or rendered impossible for future use. SB 637 was approved by the Senate in spring of 2015 and is currently in the House on the order of Second Reading.

State Sells Five Surplus Aircraft, Reduces Deficit
Governor Rauner announced the sale on Tuesday, August 25. The sale marked the successful conclusion of one of the Governor’s policy initiatives, which implemented his campaign promise to ground much of the State’s former “shuttle fleet” that used to carry public-sector executives back and forth between Chicago and Springfield.

In April 2014, the former administration tried to sell nine of the State’s planes, but no legitimate buyers met the set minimum bids for three of the largest aircraft. The Rauner administration re-priced and successfully re-offered the planes for disposal. The series of sales netted $3.5 million for State taxpayers - $2.5 million for the planes and $1.0 million in unneeded, foregone maintenance and operations costs.
Governor Signs “Federal Funds” Measure Pushed by House Republicans
Many Illinois service providing agencies that rely on state funding will feel some relief now that Governor Rauner has signed into law a bill that allows nearly $5 billion in federal funds to flow in the absence of an approved Illinois budget. SB 2042, as amended in the House on Wednesday, August 12, will “pass through” monies given to Illinois for programs mandated or strongly encouraged by Washington, D.C. Governor Rauner signed SB 2042 into law on Thursday, August 20.

Although SB 2042 was a Senate bill, the final language approved by the General Assembly and the Governor was developed in the Illinois House after pressure from House Republicans. Led by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, the GOP caucus pointed out that the overall Fiscal Year 2016 budget impasse was holding federally funded programs “hostage.” Even though the underlying money to pay for these federally-funded programs had been paid by Illinois residents as part of their federal tax payments, Washington was not transferring funds for these programs to Springfield until the State’s government countersigned the transfer by assigning the money to legal appropriations line items. SB 2042, as urged and supported by House Republicans, created these line items and will enable this money to be transferred.

Before passing through the House, SB 2042 was carefully stripped of State taxpayer-funded items that will increase the State’s budget deficit. House Republicans continued to draw attention to the piecemeal FY16 Illinois budget taking shape, but noted that federal dollars should not be subject to the ongoing budget battle in Springfield. The House vote on SB 2042 was 98-0-0.

New College of DuPage Board of Trustees Begins Legal Action to Terminate Retiring College President
The move forms another step in the long-term process of changing over the administration of the scandal-plagued College of DuPage. If this move to terminate Dr. Robert Breuder is accepted by the courts, it could pre-empt the $763,000 severance package offered by a majority of the previous college board to the departing chief executive. The voters of the COD taxing district elected a new “Clean Slate” of trustees that now form a majority of the current board, and Breuder is currently on leave of absence from the College. The trustees voted to commence Breuder’s dismissal on Thursday, August 20.

Disciplinary action against the chief executive followed reports of out-of-control spending at the College, including money set aside to open the controversial “Waterleaf” upscale restaurant. Described to taxpayers upon its opening in 2011 as a hands-on learning experience that would enable culinary arts students to practice their crafts for paying customers, the place of fine dining failed to thrive in the marketplace and was allegedly used as an eating club by Breuder and other members of the College’s top management. The current board has taken steps to close the restaurant, effective Saturday, August 29.  The board is also cooperating with current State and Federal investigations of this and other fiscal practices of the Breuder administration.    

The Board of Trustees’ move followed urgings by House Republican Representative Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), who as a community leader and local taxpayer has called repeatedly for Breuder’s severance package to be pre-empted or cancelled. The $763,000 original settlement is believed to be one of the largest for a public employee in Illinois history. 

State Fairground Street named after Comptroller Topinka
The pedestrian street was named “Judy Baar Topinka Lane” in honor of the high-spirited public official’s handshaking and cheerful outreach activities. The lane is close to the physical center of the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Noted for her love of the Downstate fair, the Chicago-area statewide official died in office in December 2014. Topinka Lane is lined, during the eleven days of Fair activities, with stands selling State Fair celebration food such as corn dogs and skewered pork chops. Topinka was honored on Tuesday, August 18.    

The 2015 Illinois State Fair opened on August 13 in Springfield and is scheduled to continue until Sunday, August 23. A separate DuQuoin State Fair will be held in Southern Illinois from August 28 through September 7. Fair activities include entertainments, rides, races and other competitions, and festival food.  Fairs have been held to honor Illinois agriculture and culture since 1853.  

I’m shown in this picture with Judy and my daughter at an event last summer. Judy was a wonderful person and a tireless advocate for the people of Illinois and she is sorely missed. 

Price of Gasoline-Based Motor Fuels Spike in Greater Chicago Area
Gasoline-based motor fuel prices have once again risen above $3.50/gallon in the greater Chicago area. Chicago, by federal law, is a so-called ‘non-attainment zone,” where persistent failure to meet Clean Air Act guidelines during summer months legally necessitates the local refining and sale of special, unique blends of motor fuel. Usage of these gasoline-based non-attainment zone motor fuels is supposed to reduce ozone air pollution in the areas where they are sold. However, their mandated use means that the Chicago area is continuously vulnerable to price spikes, because local filling stations are legally barred from responding to supply shortages by importing motor fuel from other locations within the U.S. The Chicago-area non-attainment zone consists of all or parts of ten counties south and southwest of Lake Michigan– eight in Illinois and two in Indiana. 

The current non-attainment zone motor fuel price spike is attributed to a reduction in ongoing production at the Chicago-area BP plc refinery located in nearby Whiting, Indiana. The Chicago area’s largest refinery, the Whiting complex has often suffered production glitches in previous summer months. Diesel fuel is not affected by the federal ozone mandate, and the price of Chicago-area diesel fuel has not increased in line with prices for gasoline-based motor fuels.    

Senate Overrides Labor Relations Veto
Last week the Illinois Senate voted to override a Governor Rauner veto of SB 1229, a bill that would amend the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act to allow for the replacement of collective bargaining with binding interest arbitration in instances where a contract has expired. I believe SB1229 is bad for the citizens of Illinois and also bad for unionized employees. To that end, I fully support the Governor’s veto.

The collective bargaining process is the traditional pathway used by labor and management to resolve most issues associated with workplace conditions, pay and benefits. Through SB1229, the people elected by both sides of a negotiation to represent their group would be replaced by a non-elected individual who would be accountable to no one. This arbitrator would not mediate; he or she would choose one of the two proposals that would become the contract.

When Illinoisans elect a Governor, one duty assigned to that individual is to represent the citizens and taxpayers of Illinois in all labor negotiations with the State’s labor unions. His job, quite simply, is to represent the best interests of the taxpayers whose money pays for the union contracts. SB 1229 would remove the Governor from negotiations, thus eliminating the citizens of Illinois’ representation in bargaining. For those who belong to a union, the right to strike is their most powerful tool during contract negotiations. It is a right for which their predecessors fought long and hard. This right to strike is often the driving force that leads to fair bargaining. SB 1229 would strip that right from unionized workers. When this issue comes before the House for an override vote, I will be a strong “no” vote.

First 2015 Illinois Transmission to Humans of West Nile Virus Reported
A case of the mosquito-borne disease, diagnosed in Downstate’s St. Clair County, was reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health (DPH) on Wednesday, August 19.  West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes as are malaria, yellow fever, and other dangerous illnesses. The mosquito type that carries these microorganisms is becoming acclimated to the Illinois climate, and mosquitoes can transmit West Nile in their bites. DPH recommends that Illinois residents and visitors use standard mosquito repellent and limit outdoor activities during mosquito-friendly dusk and nighttime hours.      

West Nile has hit Illinois in previous summers. In 2014, state health officials reported 44 cases of West Nile virus in Illinois. In addition, other infections may have taken place that were not reported. In four of the 44 reported cases, the patient died.
In an effort to reach as many of his constituents as possible, Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) holds regular mobile office hours throughout the 81st Legislative District. This week his staff will be available on Friday, August 21 at the Downers Grove Public Library, 1050 Curtiss Street, from 10:00AM until noon.

“I have a very knowledgeable staff that can help residents with their concerns and issues regarding state services,” Sandack said. “Since my district office is not convenient for all of my constituents, my staff regularly goes out into the District 81 communities to offer their service and expertise at these events.”

No appointment is needed, and office hours are open to all residents near the designated locations. 
Governor Signs Bill Banning New Layers of Government
This week Governor Rauner signed into law a bill that prohibits the General Assembly from enacting any legislation that creates a new layer of government for the next four years. The bill would make an exception for the creation of a new governmental unit that resulted from consolidating two or more existing ones. The new law also provides that voters can choose to create a new taxing body through a referendum.

I was a Chief Co-Sponsor of HB 228, now known as PA 99-0353, and view the passage and signing of the legislation as a large step in reining in property tax increases. Illinois currently has almost 7,000 units of government, which outpaces the second-place state by more than 2,000 units. I have been a vocal advocate for government consolidation and will continue to fight for these kinds of taxpayer protections.

House Republicans Successfully Push Passage of “Federal Funds” Measure
As the Fiscal Year 16 budget showdown continues, House Republicans took the lead last week in keeping a federal-only pass through bill on track, ensuring approximately $5 billion in federal dollars will flow to state agencies and service providers. SB 2042, as amended in the House on Wednesday, August 12, will appropriate federal funds given to Illinois for specific state programs mandated or strongly encouraged by Washington, D.C. The Governor has signaled his support for a “federal funds” budget bill.

Despite unanimous bipartisan passage in the Senate, the original SB 2042 almost failed in the House due to a late amendment added by House Democrats that attempted to hold these federally-funded programs “hostage” to the overall budget impasse. In the end, the majority party yielded and allowed the original federal funds appropriation bill to be voted on by the full House with a handful of Republican suggested additions related to homeland security. AP political writer John O’Connor wrote a good article that explained the issue very well.

Governor’s Office Begins to Cut Fiscal Year 2016 Spending
In the absence of an FY16 budget, Illinois faces an immediate FY16 spending situation right now and a worsening crisis. The Governor and his office have begun to take unilateral action, utilizing the emergency rulemaking authority possessed by State agencies, to cut spending. Rules to reduce taxpayer spending on medical hospital reimbursements, Medicaid-paid medical transportation (ambulance services), State-subsidized child care services, and the operations of the Illinois Labor Relations Board have been promulgated in the first weeks of the FY16 budget impasse.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), an arm of the Illinois General Assembly for which I serve as the Republican Spokesperson, considered these budget-cutting rules at their meeting on Tuesday, August 11. JCAR did not take steps to block these rules, which will remain in effect.

Illinois continues to operate without a budget for FY16. While many sections of State government are approaching crisis conditions, many others are operating normally due to various court cases, consent decrees and continuing appropriations. Many observers believe that because most state functions continue to operate as usual, there is very little public pressure on the legislature to resolve the crisis.

Controversial Gourmet Restaurant at College of DuPage to Close
The “Waterleaf” restaurant, a high-end eatery and training center located at the main campus of the College of DuPage, has been implicated in many revelations of out-of-control spending by retiring college president Richard Breuder and top aides. Waterleaf has been operated as part of the COD’s Culinary and Hospitality Center, located on the College’s Glen Ellyn campus.

While the luxury place for fine eating and drinking was described to College of DuPage taxpayers and students as a place for training aspiring chefs, caterers, and specialized food preparers, 2015 news accounts indicate that the eatery was not very successful at achieving these policy goals. The tablecloth restaurant appears to have been oriented, instead, towards use as an eating club and executive amenity for Breuder and his friends. The retiring college president has gone on leave of absence, and the newly-elected COD Board of Trustees, controlled by the “Clean Slate” faction, is actively investigating his policies and leadership. The trustees voted on Thursday, August 13 to close down the controversial restaurant.

Amazon Opens Fulfillment Center in Joliet
The online retailing firm, which stockpiles and forwards much (but not all) of the goods sold on its website, has opened its first sorting and order fulfillment center in Illinois. The 500,000-square-foot Joliet-based facility will carry out chores that are intended to increase the proportion of goods that can be delivered to Chicago-area customers on the day an electronic order is placed. The fulfillment center’s capabilities go well beyond those of a traditional warehouse.

The fulfillment center will specialize in the warehousing, sorting, and delivery preparation of books, small electronics, and consumer goods. The site’s startup has created an estimated 1,000 Illinois jobs. The company has suggested that if the State is able to improve its business climate, they may open multiple fulfillment centers and other facilities in the Chicago area by 2017.

H.J Heinz and Kraft Foods Merge and Consolidate; 700 Positions in Chicago Affected
The merger of two major packaged-food firms, H.J. Heinz and the former Kraft Foods, into Kraft Heinz is affecting the Chicago area. Kraft Heinz has stated they are eliminating 700 positions located in Northfield, Illinois, the former headquarters of Kraft when it was an independent company. The reduction in force is part of the overall elimination of 2,500 jobs at the company.

The Northfield action is expected to affect more than one-third of the Kraft Heinz workforce at Northfield, which had been approximately 1,900. Kraft Heinz is best-known among consumers for familiar brands such as Velveeta processed cheese, Jell-O desserts, and Heinz condiments and ketchup.

Sandack Attends Pond Re-Dedication Ceremony
Earlier this month I had the privilege of participating in a ceremony re-dedicating Barth Pond at Patriot’s Park in Downers Grove. The event commemorated the recent completion of the dredging of the pond and the completion of a new playground near the water.

The 5.8-acre Barth Pond was originally constructed in 1978 and initially served as a storm water detention facility and popular fishing spot. A boat launch for access to the pond was added in 2008.

New Law Toughens Rules Intended to Reduce and Prevent Athletic Concussions
The Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act mandates that schools with athletic programs develop rapid-response concussion emergency action plans that will enable medical help to be obtained and prompt care available in cases of actual or suspected head injuries. Parallel mandates are placed on youth sports leagues and on park districts that organize youth sports activities. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and other affected groups will develop rules and policies to implement the new law, which went into effect immediately and will apply to the 2015 high school football season.

The new law is the result of passage of SB 3 in spring 2015 by the Illinois General Assembly. The bill was signed into law on Monday, August 3 by Governor Bruce Rauner. The House vote on SB 3 in May 2015 was 104-1-1, with almost all House Republicans voting in support of the measure.

Illinois State Fair Opens in Springfield
The annual Illinois State Fair opened on Thursday, August 13 and will continue until Sunday, August 23. Held at the State Fairgrounds on the north side of Springfield, the gathering features entertainment, festival food, rides and attractions. State fairs have been held since 1853, with the exception of the years during World War II. In a typical year, between 0.5 million and 1.0 million fairgoers attend the festivities.

House Passes Bill to Provide Emergency Debt Service Relief
SB 2042, as amended in the House, contains a tweak to appropriations laws governing the operations of the Chicago-based authority that governs McCormick Place, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. In the absence of a budget, a “tweak” to the MPEA’s law is necessary to allow the MPEA to put funds into readiness to carry out its debt servicing requirements. The vote on Wednesday, August 12, to pass SB 2042 was 98-0-0.

The MPEA has borrowed substantial sums of money in order to expand McCormick Place, rebuild Navy Pier, and carry out financing for an arena and hospitality space adjacent to the convention center. Debt on these borrowings will be due on Dec. 15, and monies are required to be set aside monthly to prepare for this December payment. Citing uncertainties about this financing chain Standard & Poor’s, the New York City bond rating house, sharply reduced the MPEA’s debt rating on Wednesday, August 5.

U of I Chancellor Wise Announces Intent to Step Down; Trustees Reject Separation Pay Agreement
A proposed $400,000 separation payment to retiring University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise, operating officer of the University during a controversial four-year period, was debated this week and rejected by the university board of trustees. The rejection was made public on Wednesday, August 12. The chancellor has announced last week she was stepping down amid revelations that she had deliberately used personal e-mail to discuss matters of University policy with other key officials and advisors, thereby attempting to sidestep access to issues of public accountability.

House Republicans have taken the lead in signaling that lavish separation payments are inappropriate for persons who leave the public sector, especially public institutions of higher education, under pressure or a cloud. HB 3593, sponsored by Representative Jeanne Ives and fourteen Republican colleagues, specifically limits such separation severance payments at the community college level. HB 3593, which responded to a lavish separation-payment agreement at the College of DuPage, has been passed by both houses of the General Assembly and is awaiting action by the Governor.

The University’s president has named Barbara J. Wilson, Dean of the school’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as interim chancellor of the University of Illinois.

Sandack Schedules Mobile Office Hours for August 21 in Downers Grove
In an effort to reach as many of my constituents as possible, my staff holds regular mobile office hours throughout the 81st Legislative District. This week my knowledgeable staff will be available on Friday, August 21 at the Downers Grove Public Library, 1050 Curtiss Street, from 10:00AM until noon.

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.
Several Illinois counties, including DuPage and Will, are now eligible for low-interest emergency loans due to heavy rains and flooding that occurred in June and July.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in response to a request made by Governor Bruce Rauner, has declared a disaster designation for 87 counties and an additional 14 contiguous counties that suffered losses due to rain and flooding earlier this spring and summer. As a result of the designation, farmers in the affected areas can take advantage of low-interest Farm Service Agency loans to cover part of the damages and losses that occurred in June and July. Farmers have eight months to apply for the loans.

Counties eligible for assistance include: Adams, Alexander, Bond, Brown, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Champaign, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Cumberland, DeKalb, DeWitt, Douglas, DuPage, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Franklin, Fulton, Gallatin, Greene, Grundy, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jersey, Johnson, Kane, Kankakee, Knox, LaSalle, Lawrence, Lee, Livingston, Logan, McDonogh, McLean, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Mason, Massac, Menard, mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Peoria, Perry, Piatt, Pike, Pope, Pulaski, Putnam, Randolph, Richland, Rock Island, St. Clair, Saline, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Stark, Tazewell, Union, Vermilion, Wabash, Warren, Washington, Wayne, White, Whiteside, Will, Williamson and Woodford.

Counties named as contiguous disaster counties eligible for assistance include: Boone, Bureau, Christian, Coles, Cook, Edgar, Jo Daviess, Kendall, McHenry, Moultrie, Ogle, Shelby, Stephenson and Winnebago.

Farmers from these counties are encouraged to contact their local Farm Service Agency if they have questions. Loan applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and applicant’s repayment ability. Those with additional questions can also contact the state FSA office at (217) 241-6600. Additional information can be found at the USDA’s Farm Service Agency web site.
Yesterday State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) participated in a budget discussion on "Chicago Tonight," where host Carol Marin asked some tough questions about the ongoing budget stalemate in Springfield.

Republican Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake), and Democrats Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove) also participated in the panel discussion.

Sandack spoke at length about why it is appropriate that the Rauner reform initiatives be tied to budget discussions and about how claims by Democrats that the two issues are unrelated are "nonsense."

"We're not in a vacuum. Nothing about what goes on in Springfield or in Chicago is isolated," Sandack said. "Everything ties together in Springfield and is fair game for discussion."

You can listen to the interview here.

Save the Date! Sandack Senior Fair Scheduled for September 11
My annual Senior Fair has been scheduled this year for Friday, September 11. The event will be held from 10:00 a.m. until noon in the Downers Grove Park District’s Lincoln Center Auditorium, 935 Maple Avenue, in Downers Grove. We will have helpful guides and literature available and several vendors will be on site to share additional information about senior services and programs. Additionally, my staff will be available during the fair to assist constituents with their state government needs. For more information about my 2015 Senior Fair, please contact my office at 630-737-0504 or email me at

House Approves Bill to Block Automatic Pay Increase for Fiscal Year 16
Responding to immense pressure from constituents back in their home districts, House Democrats finally decided to allow a vote last week on a measure that would stop a deceptive pay raise they snuck into the statutes last year. It’s about time.

For weeks, the House Republicans tried to bring our HB4225 to the floor so that lawmakers could reject the automatic pay hike that Democrats snuck into their partisan fiscal year 2015 budget. On three separate occasions, leading Democrats blocked our bill and refused to allow a discussion of the propriety of a pay raise amid this budget crisis. But last week, those same lawmakers scurried for cover, and brought forth their own bill that is almost identical to what we proposed back in May.

Speaker Madigan’s HB576 is a bill that originally had nothing to do with legislative pay. It was stripped and amended, heard in committee and brought to the floor for a discussion and vote over the course of just a few hours on Tuesday. While the vote to reject pay raises could have and should have taken place several weeks ago through our HB4225, I was pleased to see that only one Democrat voted against the measure last week. Upon its passage, it was sent to the Senate where it was approved on August 4. It now awaits the signature of the Governor.

To watch my floor comments on the vote in the House, click here.

Federal Funds Budget could Move, May Meet some Emergency Needs
The Illinois Senate has approved SB 2042, a measure that would appropriate the federal funds allocated to Illinois in FY16 for spending and use. Programs that operate senior centers, women, infants and children supplemental nutrition efforts, adult education programs, and home weatherization assistance offices are among the programs funded by federal grants that are funneled through the State. These programs may be able to maintain some of their operations with the help of this bill.

SB 2042, as amended, is scheduled to be voted on by the Illinois House this week. Complex appropriations issues may make it necessary to further amend the measure in the House. These federal funds, which total nearly $5 billion, are separate from the money paid by Illinois taxpayers to the State. This State of Illinois “general funds” budget remains approximately $4 billion out of balance, with no solution to this section of the State’s budget woes in sight. The Senate voted unanimously (57-0-0) on Tuesday, August 4 to pass the bill. Action by the Illinois House would be required to further move this bill forward.

Governor Signs Sandack Bill that Assists Property Owners and Contractors
During the summer months, the Governor spends a lot of time signing bills into law that were approved by the General Assembly during the spring session. Last week Governor Rauner signed a bill of mine that provides protections for property owners who have existing mechanics liens on their property.

HB2635, now PA 99-0178, allows landowners to replace a mechanics lien with a surety bond, which would allow the landowner to sell or refinance their property. Typically, when a contractor or subcontractor does not get paid for work done for a landowner, they place a mechanics lien on the property as a means for ensuring payment. If the landowner tries to sell the property at a later date, the lien would have to be settled before a sale could occur. Unfortunately, there are instances when property owners have work done to prepare a house for sale and are overcharged by disreputable contractors. While the claim is being disputed, interested buyers have walked away because the sale could not be completed due to the lien.

According to the provisions of the new law, a property owner may replace a lien with a surety bond equal to 175% of the lien claim. Home sales or refinances will no longer be held up in cases of contractual disputes, and contractors who need to recoup costs associated with completed work have a new guarantee for payment for their services.

State Facilities May Close due to Funding Constraints
With Illinois still lacking a full-year budget for most of the spending lines in FY16, Gov. Bruce Rauner has been compelled to take steps to cut expenses. He is legally required to do so, because most of the money the State is spending from day to day is being spent without the legal sanction of a constitutionally-enacted appropriation bill. The Governor has announced a readiness to close several State facilities, including the Illinois State Museum headquartered in Springfield, and the Hardin County Work Camp in southern Illinois’ Elizabethtown. The pending State Museum closure includes four subsidiary sites in other Illinois locations. A total of 65 museum employees would be affected.

In non-binding votes on Wednesday, August 5, the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) voted to support the State continuing to operate the State Museum and work camp. The CGFA votes will not require the Governor to modify his closure action.

Downers Grove Youth Earns Eagle Scout Rank
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Eagle Scout Court of Honor for Sean Harnick of Downers Grove. The ceremony for this Troop #80 scout was held at the American Legion Hall in Downers Grove. I always enjoy attending these ceremonies when I can, and learning about these young men’s journeys toward Boy Scout’s highest rank. If you know of a Boy Scout who has completed the rigorous requirements for the Eagle badge, please alert my office so we can have a certificate of achievement prepared. I will also try to attend ceremonies as my schedule permits.

Nonpartisan General Assembly Think Tank Continues to Track Budget Shortfall
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the nonpartisan agency within the Illinois State Legislature that tracks the budget status of the State, issued its monthly report for July 2015 on Monday, August 3. General funds tax receipts continued to fall short of spending in the first month of the FY16 fiscal year, largely due to the partial rollback of State income tax rates in January 2015. In July, income tax receipts fell by $204 million. Of this shortfall, $189 million of the shortfall was in personal income tax receipts and $15 million was in corporate income tax receipts.

Although this July 2015 revenue shortfall was widely predicted and is now a matter of public record, the majority party in the Illinois General Assembly has not yet published a FY16 revenue estimate matching the CGFA numbers, even though the Constitution and laws of Illinois require it. Of course, if the majority party adopted a balanced revenue estimate this would lead to increased pressure upon themselves to enact a constitutional balanced budget for the same fiscal year; and they have not done this, either.

Rauner Negotiations with AFSCME Continue
As the State’s budget crisis continues, attention continues to focus on the state of talks between Governor Rauner’s office and the State’s largest public sector union, AFSCME. Both sides have pledged to continue talks and not to pursue a labor action through September. However, the mounting burdens of the State’s fiscal situation are becoming evident to observers throughout Illinois.

Meanwhile, last week Governor Rauner vetoed SB 1229, a bill that seeks to amend the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act and essentially remove the Governor from the negotiation table. The measure would replace collective bargaining with binding interest arbitration with respect to collective bargaining agreements that have expired. The veto message was presented to the General Assembly on Wednesday, August 5. Many Illinois newspapers share Rauner’s opposition to SB 1229, and have published editorials in opposition to the bill and in support of the veto. This editorial from the “Chicago Tribune” was published on Tuesday, August 4.