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State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) wants to help bring holiday cheer to local families this year, and has teamed up with Lemon Tree Grocer and Critical Technology Solutions for a “Toys for Tots” drive. Toys for Tots is a national charity run by the U.S. Marine Corps, with a local chapter in Lombard. New, unwrapped gifts will be collected at all three locations through December 16.

“Every child deserves to have a happy holiday season” explained Sandack. “There are families in this immediate area who are struggling this year, so I would encourage anyone who can afford to do so to donate a gift to this Toys for Tots drive.”

Drop off locations and details are as follows:

The Office of State Representative Ron Sandack
633 Rogers St. Suite # 108
Downers Grove, IL 60515
10:00am – 3:00pm (box will be located outside office suite)

The Lemon Tree Grocer
935 Burlington Ave.
Downers Grove, IL 60515
8:00am – 9:00pm (box will be located inside store foyer)

Critical Technology Solutions
1247 Warren Ave.
Downers Grove, IL 60515
8:30am – 5:00pm (box will be located in front office space)
Governor Rauner Calls for Temporary Suspension in Movement of Syrian Refugees to Illinois
Governor Bruce Rauner has issued the following statement regarding Illinois’ acceptance of Syrian refugees after the terror attacks in Paris:

“Our nation and our state have a shared history of providing safe haven for those displaced by conflict, but the news surrounding the Paris terror attacks reminds us of the all-too-real security threats facing America. We must find a way to balance our tradition as a state welcoming of refugees while ensuring the safety and security of our citizens. Therefore, the state of Illinois will temporarily suspend accepting new Syrian refugees and consider all of our legal options pending a full review of our country’s acceptance and security processes by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

Sandack Named “Legislator of the Year” by Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Drinking while driving is a completely preventable crime, and this year I served as the Chief Co-Sponsor of HB 3533, which now 

requires repeat DUI offenders to use a breathalyzer ignition device on their car for five years. In recognition of this meaningful legislation, last week Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) named me as a Legislator of the Year. I am one of 70 lawmakers nationwide to receive the honor.

Through HB 3533, more drunk drivers will be removed from our roads, and families will be safer as they travel. It was a pleasure to serve as the Chief Co-Sponsor of HB 3533, and I sincerely appreciate MADD’s recognition of my efforts to keep our roads safe.

Governor Rauner to Host Budget Meeting with Legislative Leaders on December 1
The face-to-face meeting is scheduled to bring together Governor Bruce Rauner and the leaders of the four General Assembly legislative caucuses, including House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. Originally scheduled to be held on Wednesday, November 18, the meeting has been reset for Tuesday, December 1. The new time will allow preparations to continue over the Thanksgiving holiday.

In addition to budget issues, questions dividing Illinois leaders include workers’ compensation, property tax relief, public-sector labor pay and benefits, tort reform, election process reform, and term limits. Many key items of House Republican advocacy have been barred from discussion and debate within the Illinois General Assembly in recent years. The role of House Speaker Madigan has come under discussion as an element in the overall operation of Illinois state government, often characterized in recent years as one of the “worst in the nation.” Illinois currently has the lowest bond and credit ratings of any of the 50 states.

Sandack Partners with Local Businesses for Toys for Tots Collection
This year I am once again teaming up with Lemon Tree Grocer and Critical Technology Solutions for a “Toys for Tots” drive. Toys for Tots is a national charity run by the U.S. Marine Corps, with a local chapter in Lombard. New, unwrapped gifts will be collected at all three locations through December 16.

Every child deserves to have a happy holiday season, and there are families in this immediate area who are struggling. I would encourage anyone who can afford to do so to donate a gift to this Toys for Tots drive.

Drop off locations and details are as follows:

The Office of State Representative Ron Sandack
633 Rogers St. Suite # 108
Downers Grove, IL 60515
10:00am – 3:00pm (box will be located outside office suite)

The Lemon Tree Grocer
935 Burlington Ave.
Downers Grove, IL 60515
8:00am – 9:00pm (box will be located inside store foyer)

Critical Technology Solutions
1247 Warren Ave.
Downers Grove, IL 60515
8:30am – 5:00pm (box will be located in front office space)

Governor Rauner Uses Executive Authority to Reform EDGE Program
The troubled program, created in 1999, has granted tax credits for 16 years to Illinois-based employers that sign agreements to create new jobs in Illinois or to save existing jobs. In order to enjoy the tax credits provided by an EDGE agreement, a business must continue to maintain levels of jobs and economic activity set forth in the agreement. The program has come under serious criticism in recent years. In certain cases, some EDGE workplaces have moved from one place to another within Illinois. In a few cases, a workplace has maintained its eligibility for EDGE credits for a period of time, enjoyed some of the benefits of the program on a year-to-year basis, and then shuttered the facility and left Illinois.

The Rauner reforms will end the practice of offering the coveted tax credits to employers that retain existing jobs. Instead, the benefits will be restricted to employers who create new, verifiable jobs in Illinois. Controls are added to prevent EDGE tax credit beneficiaries from maintaining their eligibility for tax credits while moving jobs around within Illinois. Additional controls are aimed at preventing two or more packages of job credits from being awarded to a single employer or workplace. The EDGE program, which operates under the executive authority of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, can be reformed by unilateral action of the Governor.

Tyson Foods Announces Plans to Shutter Chicago Plant, Lay off 480 Workers
The South Side plant prepares frozen meals for the hospitality industry. Products made at the plant included meatballs, crepes, omelets, and soups, and those products were often served in hotel/motel breakfast rooms and buffet tables.

The soon-to-be-shuttered plant represented an echo of the Chicago Stockyards. During the first half of the 20th century dressed meat products from an area covering barely more than one square mile, located along Chicago’s Halsted Street and Ashland Boulevard, fed a substantial share of the U.S. population. Tyson Foods, which acquired the Chicago-based Hillshire Brands in 2014, has taken a key role in the consolidation of American protein goods and their transfer from urban factories to locations closer to sources of supply.

Representative Raymond Poe Named Director of Agriculture
First elected to the Illinois House in 1994, Raymond Poe has represented much of Springfield, Illinois and surrounding communities ever since. His district has changed its boundaries several times, but has retained its character as a place where farmers and state workers come together to solve local problems. As a family farmer, Poe has played a key role in bringing together various groups within his diverse district. On Friday, November 13, the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the naming of Raymond Poe to be the new director of the State Department of Agriculture.

“I’ll still be working with the legislature,” Poe assured his colleagues. In more than 20 years in the Illinois House, Poe has played a key role in defending the Illinois State Fair and Fairgrounds, sponsoring agricultural conservation, and bringing together the farm and higher education communities.

Sara Wojcicki Jimenez was unanimously chosen on Friday by the 99th State House District Representative Committee to replace former State Rep. Raymond Poe. Jimenez, Chief of Staff to First Lady Diana Rauner, was raised in Springfield and offers a unique profile to the Republican Party while demonstrating a compassion and understanding of state government, the legislative process and a key ability to be a strong advocate for Sangamon County residents. Jimenez will be sworn in as the 99th District State Representative this week.

Agreements with 11 Separate Labor Unions Announced
The tentative four-year contracts will cover relations with workers that perform a wide variety of tasks for State government, particularly in skilled crafts. The agreements between 11 labor organizations, including key trade unions, and the Rauner administration were announced on Wednesday, November 18.

Negotiations continue between the State and its largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Other unions at bargaining tables with the State’s management negotiators include the Service Employees International Union/Healthcare Illinois, the Illinois Nurses Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and two unions representing police officers.

Happy Thanksgiving!
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I would like to thank the residents of the 81st Legislative House District for allowing me to serve in the General Assembly. It is the honor of a lifetime, and a privilege to help shape policy to improve the lives of Illinoisans. I hope you all are able to spend time with friends, family and other loved ones during this long Thanksgiving weekend.

Next week lawmakers will return to Springfield for a session day on Wednesday, December 2, and then we will return to finish out 2015 in our home districts and prepare for the 2016 session, which begins on Wednesday, January 13.

In recognition of his advocacy and legislative initiatives that seek to end drunk driving in Illinois, this week State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) was named a “Legislator of the Year” by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Sandack is one of 70 lawmakers nationwide to receive the honor.

"MADD sincerely appreciates Representative Sandack for his dedication to eliminating the completely preventable crime of drunk driving,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church. “MADD counts on dedicated lawmakers like Representative Sandack who share our mission of creating a nation with No More Victims."

This year Sandack helped lead an effort in the Illinois General Assembly to require the use of breathalyzer ignition interlock devices for five years for repeat DUI offenders. “Through HB 3533, more drunk drivers will be removed from our roads, and families will be safer as they travel,” Sandack said.

HB 3533, signed into law as PA 99-0296 in August, amended the Illinois Vehicle Code to require any driver with a repeat offense of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, intoxicating compounds or any combination thereof, to use a breathalyzer connected to a vehicle’s ignition device for a period of five years. “The device tests the driver’s breath, and if it registers alcohol in the system, the car will not start,” said Sandack.

According to Sandack, those required to use the breathalyzer ignition device will also be ineligible to apply for a new driver’s license until a five-year period is completed without incident with a restricted driving permit. “By taking steps to prevent repeat offenders from prematurely regaining full driving privileges, we are helping MADD advance their mission,” said Sandack. “It was a pleasure to serve as the Chief Co-Sponsor of HB 3533, and I sincerely appreciate MADD’s recognition of my efforts to keep our roads safe.”
House Democrats Block Budget Compromise, Put Politics Above Solutions
For months, the Democrats who oppose change in Springfield have called for “reasonable” discussions and compromise regarding the budget impasse. It became very clear through their actions last week, when compromise was very much on the table, that majority Democrats in the House have absolutely no intention of compromising and would rather put partisan politics above budget solutions.

The Illinois Democrats who have perpetuated this budget impasse are making promises they can’t deliver. They don’t have the votes to increase taxes, so instead of negotiation and compromise, they’ve again created a spectacle in Springfield. They’ve indignantly demanded we pass a budget we can’t afford and have not once offered a way to pay for it.

Without a budget to restrain out-of-control spending, the State’s financial spigot is wide open. A series of judicial actions accompanied by a reckless, piecemeal approach to appropriations has forced spending at levels higher than we’ve ever seen. When projected out over a year, Illinois is on pace to spend $37 billion, over a billion more than last year and nearly $5 billion more that we are projected to take in.

Illinois needs real reforms along with a truly balanced budget, one that sets our priorities and provides for our most vulnerable citizens, while responsibly spending our tax dollars.

Governor Agrees to Compromise on Child Care Eligibility
A spokesperson for Governor Rauner issued a statement on Monday, November 9, announcing the Governor’s decision to amend his emergency rule from earlier this year which raised the eligibility threshold for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). In the statement, the Governor said, “As a result of bipartisan discussions with legislators concerning the future of the Child Care Assistance Program, the Rauner administration today plans to amend the emergency rule it filed at the beginning of the fiscal year. Under the amended rule, income eligibility will rise to 162% of the federal poverty level while current co-pays will remain intact. Other eligibility and restrictions will also be lifted pending further review and legislative consultation. Additionally, the governor's office will establish a bipartisan, bicameral task force aimed at ensuring the long-term stability of the program.”

After legislators in both parties urged Governor Rauner to compromise, the Governor acted in good faith to restore eligibility for the overwhelming majority of families receiving child care assistance. Compromise language supported by the Governor brings CCAP eligibility up to 162% of the federal poverty level (FPL), which is higher than most of Illinois’ neighboring states. This is a reasonable compromise that protects child care for the working poor, while at the same time holding the line on spending.

Even though there was an agreed compromise, House Democrats forged ahead with a veto override vote on SB 570, legislation to keep CCAP eligibility at 185% of FPL. Their vote failed to garner the required 71 votes needed, with the final vote tally recorded as 70-35-4. In my comments on the House floor prior to the vote, I urged lawmakers to back away from the veto override vote on SB 570, and instead allow the agreed compromise to move forward. You can watch my remarks here.

Despite Agreement on DON Score, Democrats Pursue Override
Earlier this year, Governor Rauner responded to budget shortfalls by issuing rules to raise the Determination of Need (DON) score used to establish eligibility for long-term care.

Democrats subsequently passed legislation that would return the DON score threshold to the original number of 29. Last week, Governor Rauner issued an amendatory veto of that bill and explained that while well-intentioned, HB 2482 would lock into statute a provision that would allow qualifying individuals to be eligible for both institutional and home and community-based care services, thus driving up costs and eliminating the possibility of cost efficiencies.

Last week, the Rauner administration announced that it will not be increasing the DON score used to determine eligibility for long-term care. Instead, the State will use the existing DON score of 29 to ensure Illinois’ elderly and most vulnerable citizens receive appropriate care. In spite of this compromise, Democrats brought the bill to the House floor on November 10 for an override vote. Once again, the Democrats’ move against a negotiated solution failed on a vote of 70-38-1.

Motor Fuel Tax Legislation Passes, but Madigan Puts a Hold on it
With Illinois now in the fifth month of Fiscal Year 2016 without an approved budget in place, many important appropriations have been left in limbo. HB 4305 authorizes the distribution of motor fuel tax (MFT) receipts to local governments. These funds are vitally important to municipalities and townships for local road projects and public safety. House Republicans successfully persuaded the Governor to join us in our support for providing this essential funding for MFT, 9-1-1 services and additional public safety funds.

After reaching an agreement to pass HB 4305, the legislation was overwhelmingly approved by the House on November 10. However, Speaker Madigan used his draconian House Rules to put a hold on forwarding the bill to the Senate, with Majority Leader Currie filing a motion to reconsider the vote. This parliamentary hold means MFT receipts and 9-1-1 funds will not be distributed until the Speaker removes his blockage and the bill can be passed by the Senate.

Governor Rauner, General Assembly Reach Agreement on Reforms to Illinois’ Unemployment Insurance Law
This important statute, which will be amended by HB 1285 and/or SB 1941, covers the procedures that take place when a worker is laid off or otherwise subjected to no-fault unemployment. Many of the benefits created by the Illinois unemployment insurance (UI) statute were scheduled to sunset at the end of 2015, creating an incentive for Illinois business and labor to come to the negotiating table. Away from press scrutiny, and meeting under the guidance of a team headed by Rauner cabinet member Jeff Mays, longtime advocates for both sides described some of their concerns with current law. Relief for some of these concerns was contained in the agreed language of this week’s legislation. Governor Rauner’s announcement that an agreement had been reached was made on Monday, November 9. Key members of the General Assembly participated in the meetings on behalf of both political parties and all four caucuses.

In Illinois, most people in this position are granted the right to receive UI for up to 26 weeks in any one-year period after they are laid off. UI payments are overseen by the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which provided staff support for the agreement. Under an important provision of the agreement, the new UI law will explicitly protect the interests of employers that terminate an employee who has demonstrated grossly negligent conduct and thereby engaged self or co-workers, or damaged an employer’s property. Under the revised UI law, these individuals will not be eligible to receive UI payments. There is an appeal process that provides administrative review, upon separation, to former workers who believe they were improperly treated.

In a key facet of the agreement, recently separated workers who are also eligible for Social Security will now be eligible to both collect Social Security and receive a full Illinois UI benefit. Under current Illinois law, Social Security recipients could only receive UI half-benefits. Moving to full UI benefits will lead to an addition $25 million/year being paid to Illinois senior citizens who have suffered layoffs.

HB 1285, with the UI amendment attached, unanimously passed the Senate on November 10 and is expected to be passed by the House when it returns on December 2.
On Tuesday, State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) accused House Democrats of engaging in more “gotcha politics,” when they attempted a veto override vote of SB 570 even though a bipartisan agreement had been reached on the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) bill just days before.

“When the Rauner administration and a coalition of bipartisan legislators forged a deal over the weekend to bring CCAP eligibility thresholds almost back to their original levels, SB 570 became an unnecessary bill,” said Sandack. “Speaker Madigan continues to turn his back on compromise and bipartisanship, even though in this case we had a reasonable meeting of the minds.”

Earlier this year, Governor Rauner responded to the State’s fiscal crisis by using the emergency powers granted to the executive branch to make a financial adjustment to the CCAP eligibility threshold. Democrats responded to the Governor’s action by adding language to SB 570 that would reverse the Governor’s action and strip him of the ability to use his emergency powers in a similar way in the future. Concerned about the number of families that would have no longer qualified for State subsidized child care, a small bipartisan group began crafting the compromise at about that same time.

In his comments on the House floor Tuesday, Sandack urged lawmakers to back away from the veto override vote on SB 570, and instead allow the agreed compromise to move forward.  “The compromise between the Rauner administration and House Republican and Democrat lawmakers again demonstrates our Governor’s desire to act in good faith on important issues that affect Illinoisans,” said Sandack. “We had a refreshing example of bipartisanship, but unfortunately Speaker Madigan and his most loyal followers showed yet again that they have no interest in bipartisanship or compromise.”

The veto override vote on SB 570 failed to gain the required 71 votes needed, with the final vote tally on the measure recorded as 70-35-4. 

DuPage Included in Counties Seeing Double-Digit Hikes in Obamacare Insurance Premiums
The Affordable Care Act, the federal health-insurance mandate law passed in 2010 and often called “Obamacare,” requires most American households not insured through Medicare or work to obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Complex regulations govern what kinds of insurance the households must buy and how to sign up for the policies. In addition, the required health insurance policies are often expensive. Prices of ACA-compliant Illinois health insurance policies are monitored by the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI).

The costs of Obamacare-compliant health insurance policies have grown in the years since enactment of the law and imposition of the mandate. An increasing number of physicians and health care facilities are affiliated with only a limited number of health insurance providers. In many parts of Illinois, Obamacare customers have only a limited number of health insurers from which to choose. These insurers re-price their policies annually, as allowed by law. Public documents show that providers of ACA-compliant health insurance policies are increasing their 2016 premium rates by 20 percent or more in parts of Northern Illinois.

Rate increases, as tracked by DOI, exceed 20% in a crescent-shaped group of counties in northern Illinois that stretches west and southwest from DuPage County to Hancock and Henderson counties that border the Mississippi River. Metropolitan areas affected by this pattern of disproportionate price hikes include DeKalb, the Quad Cities, and greater Rockford metro areas, as well as DuPage and Kane counties in metro Chicago. The counties affected by these increases are closely correlated with areas where a particular firm, the Health Care Services Corporation (HCSC), made a major market push in calendar year 2015. In fall 2014 for calendar year 2015, HCSC offered cost-attractive bronze and silver plans in many affected counties. For 2016, however, HCSC has withdrawn some of their plans and raised prices on others. Other changes in market activity and pricing have affected ACA health care customers elsewhere in Illinois.

Senior Technology Workshop Teaches District 81 Residents about “Smart” Technology
On Wednesday, representatives from AT&T joined me for a Senior Technology Workshop at the Downers Grove Public Library. Several area seniors came out for the free event and learned about smartphone technology and how simple apps can help with prescription management, banking, and other activities. We also talked about how Skype and FaceTime can help seniors keep in touch with loved ones. Those who attended asked some very good questions and everyone learned a great deal about the ever-changing technology advances that can simplify our lives.

CGFA Charts Budget Picture
The nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the in-house budget agency of the Illinois General Assembly, released its October 2015 fiscal report this week. The CGFA “Monthly Briefing” covers ongoing State revenues, particularly key State General Funds revenue numbers, and ongoing trends likely to affect future State revenues. For example, the October briefing includes a discussion, based on nationwide trends and economic models, of the likely health of the 2015 Christmas retail selling season and its expected impact on State sales tax revenues.

CGFA, working in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Revenue, uncovered continued dismal trends in State revenues this October. Illinois general funds revenues were $319 million lower in October 2015 (fiscal year 2016) than they had been in October 2014. General Funds revenues come from income taxes, sales taxes, and other sources. As in previous months, the decline was paced by a year-over-year shortfall in State personal income tax revenues and corporate income tax revenues. The accumulated deficit for the four months of FY16 so far experienced is $1,456 million. The current fiscal year began on July 1.

Governor Rauner Issues Amendatory Veto of DON Score Legislation
On Friday, Governor Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto of House Bill 2482, legislation that would lock into statute that an individual with a particular threshold score on the Determination of Need (DON) assessment tool would be eligible for both institutional and home and community-based long term care services.

Similar to Senate Bill 570, the proposed legislation concerning the Child Care Assistance Program, HB 2482 would have unintended consequences that would negatively impact the state’s long-term ability to serve individuals in need. “These bills may be well-intentioned, but they are ultimately harmful to the programs they are trying to help,” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said. “The governor understands and shares the frustration of members who want to fund these programs, but the appropriate way to do so is in the context of a truly balanced budget. As drafted, both pieces of legislation would create serious problems that jeopardize the future of the Child Care Assistance Program as well as services for the elderly.”

House Bill 2482 would lock into statute that an individual who qualifies for assistance is entitled to institutional care. Additionally, the approach contemplated by this legislation puts the state’s compliance with Medicaid waiver regulations and ability to maximize federal match funds at serious risk.

As noted in the governor’s veto message House Bill 2482 “takes a step in the wrong direction… For too long, Illinois has over-prescribed institutional care to lower-need individuals when less expensive and more appropriate care options are available. In order to provide the best particular care for each individual, to ensure that our support services remain affordable and to maximize the number of individuals served, we must rebalance the services being provided with greater precision. Prescribing institutional care for individuals who do not need it is wrong for the individual and wrong for taxpayers. Moreover, over-prescribing institutional care is inconsistent with the direction being taken across the country.” It is likely that an attempt to override the Governor’s amendatory veto may come to the House floor when we reconvene November 10.

Sandack Hosts Successful Veterans Expo & Blood Drive in Downers Grove
On Saturday I was pleased to see a great turnout for a Veterans Expo and Blood Drive I hosted with Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. More than 100 veterans and family members visited the 40 booths at the event, and LifeSource collected 25 pints of blood from donors. It was an incredibly successful event and I enjoyed talking with the many people who visited my table. I hope to make this expo an annual event in District 81. 

Small-Business Growth Tracked in Illinois
The payroll-software firm Paychex, whose work includes continued nationwide monitoring of small business employer-employee job numbers, reported this week that Chicago ranks 7th among the 20 largest cities in the U.S., and Illinois ranks 7th among the 20 largest states, in job creation and growth so far in 2015. The Paychex numbers supplement informal perceptions of post-recession economic growth in Illinois, especially in booming neighborhoods and real estate immediately surrounding Chicago’s downtown and on the city’s North Side.

The Paychex numbers are reported on a year-over-year basis, and may not predict future trends. Furthermore, the small-business numbers generated by Paychex’ nationwide database do not reflect job activities among larger and more established U.S. firms; there have been major layoff announcements by large Illinois firms, such as Caterpillar, in recent months. Some sections of downstate Illinois may be underperforming Chicago at this time.

Oscar Mayer Headquarters Moving to Chicago
The headquarters of the well-known brand, currently located in Madison, Wisconsin, has announced plans to move to downtown Chicago. The decision by brand owner Kraft Heinz was announced on Wednesday, November 4. Illinois could gain as many as 250 jobs as a result of the move. Oscar Mayer’s headquarters move is associated with Kraft Heinz’s decision to close its Madison packing plant no later than 2017.

Kraft Heinz remains a net subtractor of jobs from the greater Chicago area in 2015. The international consumer-goods firm’s announcement this week followed its decision in August to reduce by 700 its Chicago-area headcount. Kraft Heinz is shifting its Chicago-area headquarters operations to the city and out of the buildings used by formerly autonomous Kraft in suburban Northfield.