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Today, before a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate, lawmakers heard from President Obama, who presented an hour-long speech about bipartisanship, compromise, and finding areas where legislators from opposing political parties can agree. In response to the President’s remarks, State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) has issued the following statement.

“The President is a skilled public speaker, and today we heard a heartening message about striving for better politics in Illinois. I agree with the President in that regard. In this age where the political divide seems insurmountable, we have a responsibility to behave respectfully and with the best interests of our constituents in mind. I am ready to do my part, and invite my colleagues from the other side of the aisle to join me for those discussions.”

“I was particularly pleased to hear the President make a plea for a change in the way Illinois draws legislative maps. He was correct when he stated that today technology allows parties in power to ‘precision-draw’ constituencies that maximize incumbent protection while grouping minority party voters into as few legislative districts as possible. Fair maps is an issue that an overwhelming majority of Illinoisans favor, and it is a system I have been trying to bring to Illinois for years. I hope everyone in the House chamber today takes his message to heart and decides that maps should be drawn in a way that allows voters to choose their elected officials rather than elected officials choosing their voters.”
Sandack Named Legislator of the Year by Illinois State Crime Commission
On Thursday, I learned that the Illinois State Crime Commission named me as their 2016 Republican Legislator of the Year. Recipients of this prestigious award are chosen based on recommendations made by board members and a vote by the board. One Republican and one Democrat are chosen each year.

It is an incredible privilege to be recognized for my legislative work in the area of criminal justice. The Crime Commission does very important work in our communities. I have enjoyed working on legislation that helps them achieve their mission of reducing juvenile delinquency and promoting positive interactions between law enforcement and communities. A formal presentation of the award will take place in June.

Oak Trace Residents hear State of the State Message
Last Tuesday I visited the seniors at the Oak Trace Senior Living Community in Downers Grove. I had an opportunity to speak with more than 50 residents. I provided a State of the State summary before opening up the event to their questions. I enjoyed spending time with them and look forward to a return visit.

Emission Test Notices Join List of Courtesies no longer Provided by State of Illinois
Under state and federal law, owners and operators of motor vehicles that are licensed from addresses located in so-called “non-attainment” areas must submit their vehicles to automatic vehicle re-inspections. Most large U.S. urban areas, including greater Chicago and greater St. Louis, are non-attainment areas. The presence in the air of significant products of internal combustion engines – typically ozone – is enough to get a region designated as a non-compliant metropolitan area. Vehicles that fail their emissions inspections must get repaired and re-tested. Presentation of an Illinois emissions pass is required as a condition of renewing a stickered Illinois motor vehicle license plate and being allowed to use the vehicle.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), which enforces federal Clean Air Act compliance efforts in Illinois, used to send out warning notices to Illinois motor vehicle owners to remind them to submit their vehicles for re-testing. However, as part of Illinois’ crisis-related budget cuts, the notices stopped going out in December. Despite the disappearance of these courtesy notices, Illinois motor vehicle owners located in geographically non-compliant areas continue to be subject to the retesting requirements. They continue to be mandated to show proof of testing before their Chicago-area or St. Louis-area motor vehicle licenses can be renewed. The IEPA, in cooperation with the Secretary of State’s office, is using their website to warn Illinois vehicle owners that they continue to be required to obey the law, even though public notices of the law are no longer mailed out. The IEPA says it is looking into creating a new system where Illinois motorists, if they sign up ahead of time and request warning notices by e-mail, will get automated warnings.

Sandack Co-Sponsors Reform Initiative to Overhaul Procurement Process, Save Taxpayers $500 Million
On Tuesday, February 2, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger spoke to the media at the Capitol and provided some sobering fiscal news regarding the state’s growing backlog of bills. Due to the ongoing budget impasse, Munger said Illinois is on pace to dig itself $6.2 billion in the hole further into debt this fiscal year. That’s $6.2 billion more in debt for a state that already had billions of dollars in backlogged bills waiting to be paid. “Our office is doing everything we can under the law to make payments wherever possible. But quite simply, there is no substitute for an appropriated, balanced budget,” she said.

At the same time, across town at the State Fairgrounds, Governor Rauner unveiled reform legislation that would improve efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s procurement system through HB 4644, a bill that has the potential to save taxpayers $500 million. I am a co-sponsor of this legislation.

During his comments, Governor Rauner said, “This is an important step in our process to transform the government, to make sure its efficient, effective, and it provides real value for taxpayers and provides a better quality of services to the people of Illinois,” said Rauner. “Procurement has been one of the largest sources of waste and abuse in our state. It’s frustrating, the level of incompetence and inefficiency in the system, and we really need to change this as quickly as we possibly can. We believe if we do this right we can save over a half a billion dollars per year while increasing the quality of the outcomes and quality of the goods and services we are purchasing on behalf of the people of the state.”

The Governor, along with House and Senate Republicans, continue to bring transformational ideas forward. The savings associated with this specific bill are very real, and they could have a significant positive effect on our fiscal situation. By streamlining our procurement process as proposed in HB 4644, we are freeing up $500 million that could be used to address that growing backlog of bills. These are the kinds of solutions that deserve bipartisan support, and I will be doing everything I can to ensure that bills like this one are given fair consideration.

To hear more about the state’s financial crisis as outlined through today’s press conferences, click here.

You may watch the Munger press conference here, and you may watch Governor Rauner’s press conference here.

Cub Scouts Learn about Legislative Process
Last week it was a real treat to meet with Cub Scouts from Den 6 in Woodridge’s Cub Scout Pack 48. We had a great talk about how a bill becomes a law and we did some role playing. Some scouts acted as State Representatives, others were Senators and one boy acted as the Governor. One group presented a “Taco Tuesday” bill and the other group presented a “kids only have homework one day per week” bill. The bills moved from one chamber to the other and then went to the “Governor,” who vetoed the bills. In the end, amended versions of both measures were approved. We had a wonderful time role playing, and I believe the boys learned a great lesson in citizenship.

Rauner Creates Public-Private Partnership to Create Jobs
The new Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation (ILBEDC) was created by executive order on Wednesday, February 3. The new Corporation has applied for 501(c)(3) status as a federal nonprofit. As the new firm goes into full operation, it is expected to assume some of the operational functions that have been carried out by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

A list of states that includes Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin have created public-private partnerships (3-Ps) as weapons in the overall arsenal of state promotion. Many states have seen good results from this strategy. In 2005, for example, Indiana established a new Indiana Economic Development Corporation. The new Hoosier economic development arm sold the “Crossroads of America” as a good place to create Midwestern jobs. The Indiana corporation reported that in the year after startup, it saw a 54% increase in job-creating competitive projects sited in Indiana, and a 30% reduction in incentive dollars spent by Indianapolis to create each new individual job.

In the highly competitive field of state incentives for job creation, many states are finding that it is becoming increasingly essential to operate this level of enterprise in a results-oriented manner. 3-P entities such as the new ILBEDC are not limited by the constraints placed upon purely public-sector agencies that must carry out their operations in rigid compliance with the state Personnel Code.

Sandack Receives Perfect Score for Support of Manufacturing Industry and Illinois Business
Last week I learned that I earned a perfect score from the Illinois Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA) for pro-manufacturing and pro-business votes I took in the House of Representatives in 2015. TMA ranked all members of the Illinois House and Senate with regard to votes on 12 bills that affected the manufacturing and greater business industries last year. Overall they found only 42% of the State Representatives and 39% of the Senators tallied a score of 75% or higher, signifying their support of business and manufacturing.

In announcing my perfect score, TMA President Steven Rauschenberger said, “Representative Sandack’s voting record shows he understands and supports middle class opportunities in Illinois. Illinois remains a national leader in manufacturing, and manufacturing jobs are some of the best paying jobs in Illinois. Consistently Representative Sandack has supported public policy that encourages manufactures to stay, grow and relocate to Illinois.”

Supporting our manufacturers and other businesses is critical as we try to grow Illinois’ economy and create new jobs. We lost close to 20,000 manufacturing jobs over the last 18 months alone, and supporting the bills included in the TMA package is a solid step toward turning that around.”

The full scorecard can be viewed here.

President Obama to Address IL General Assembly on Wednesday, February 10
President Obama is expected to address the Illinois General Assembly at the State Capitol in Springfield, where he served until 2004 as a member of the state Senate. It is extremely rare for a sitting President to address legislators in a joint-session setting, and it provides a nice opportunity for bipartisanship, as we hear from our nation’s top leader.

Security is expected to be extremely tight for the Presidential visit. President Obama’s return to Springfield comes nine years after his televised announcement at the Old State Capitol in February 2007, where he declared his candidacy for President. At the time, Obama was an elected U.S. Senator from Illinois. Prior to holding federal office, Obama had represented a slice of Chicago’s South Side in the Illinois State Senate from January 1997 until the end of 2004. His Illinois state legislative district was adjacent to the projected location of his future presidential library in Washington Park, Chicago.

Sandack Speaks at DeVry Colleague Town Hall
On February 4 it was my honor to speak to a gathering of more than 80 adults at the DeVry Education Group’s Home Office in Downers Grove. I provided the group with a brief Springfield update and also participated in a question and answer period, where I was able to field questions about higher education and other issues of interest. It was a very enjoyable dialogue and I appreciated the opportunity to meet and talk with the attendees.
In recognition of his service to the citizens of Illinois, the Illinois State Crime Commission has named State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) as their 2016 Republican Legislator of the Year.

According Executive Director Jerry Elsner, honorees are chosen based on recommendations made by board members and a vote by the board. One Republican and one Democrat are chosen each year for the award. “Ron Sandack epitomizes the traits of honesty, integrity and accountability, which we should all look for in our elected officials,” Elsner said. “He is a real role model that younger people can look up to.”

Sandack, who serves as the Republican Spokesperson for the Judiciary-Civil and Restorative Justice Committees, and as a member of the Judiciary-Criminal Committee, said it was a privilege to be recognized for his work in the area of criminal justice. “This esteemed group does very important work in our communities, and receiving this distinction is quite an honor,” Sandack said. “I have enjoyed working on legislation that helps them achieve their mission of reducing juvenile delinquency and promoting positive interactions between law enforcement and communities.”

According to the Crime Commission’s Government Affairs Director Michael Prueter, Sandack will be formally honored at the group’s annual “Salute to Those Who Make a Difference” awards dinner in June. “Representative Sandack’s legislative efforts in government reduction, education, human trafficking, ethics, concealed carry, seniors’ tax freezes and mental health are appreciated by this commission and by people across Illinois,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Representative on his legislation, and believe he will be quite successful in these efforts.”
State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) has earned a perfect score from the Illinois Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA) for pro-manufacturing and pro-business votes he took in the House of Representatives in 2015.

TMA ranked all members of the Illinois House and Senate with regard to votes on 12 bills that affected the manufacturing and greater business industries last year. Overall they found only 42% of the State Representatives and 39% of the Senators tallied a score of 75% or higher, signifying their support of business and manufacturing.

“Representative Sandack’s voting record shows he understands and supports middle class opportunities in Illinois,” said TMA President Steven Rauschenberger. “Illinois remains a national leader in manufacturing, and manufacturing jobs are some of the best paying jobs in Illinois. Consistently Representative Sandack has supported public policy that encourages manufactures to stay, grow and relocate to Illinois.”

Sandack is one of only 35 House members who received a perfect score.

“Supporting our manufacturers and other businesses is critical as we try to grow Illinois’ economy and create new jobs,” said Sandack. “We lost close to 20,000 manufacturing jobs over the last 18 months alone, and supporting the bills included in the TMA package is a solid step toward turning that around.”

The full scorecard can be viewed here.
Today in Springfield, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger, speaking to the media from the Capitol’s Blue Room, provided sobering fiscal news regarding the state’s growing backlog of bills. Due to the ongoing budget impasse, Munger said, “We are on pace to dig ourselves $6.2 billion in the hole further into debt this year alone. That’s $6.2 billion more in debt for a state that already had billions of dollars in backlogged bills waiting to be paid,” said Munger. “Our office is doing everything we can under the law to make payments wherever possible. But quite simply, there is no substitute for an appropriated, balanced budget.”

At the same time, across town at the State Fairgrounds, Governor Rauner unveiled reform legislation that would improve efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s procurement system through HB 4644, a bill that has the potential to save taxpayers $500 million. During his comments, Governor Rauner said, “This is an important step in our process to transform the government, to make sure its efficient, effective, and it provides real value for taxpayers and provides a better quality of services to the people of Illinois,” said Rauner. “Procurement has been one of the largest sources of waste and abuse in our state. It’s frustrating, the level of incompetence and inefficiency in the system, and we really need to change this as quickly as we possibly can. We believe if we do this right we can save over a half a billion dollars per year while increasing the quality of the outcomes and quality of the goods and services we are purchasing on behalf of the people of the state.”

State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove), a Co-Sponsor of HB 4644, said addressing waste and inefficiency is an initiative that every lawmaker should support. “The Governor, along with House and Senate Republicans, continue to bring transformational ideas forward. The savings associated with this specific bill are very real, and they could have a significant positive effect on our fiscal situation. By streamlining our procurement process as proposed in HB 4644, we are freeing up $500 million that could be used to address that growing backlog of bills,” said Sandack. “These are the kinds of solutions that deserve bipartisan support, and I will be doing everything I can to ensure that bills like this one are given fair consideration.”

To hear Sandack speak more about the state’s financial crisis as outlined through today’s press conferences, click here.

You may watch the Munger press conference here, and you may watch Governor Rauner’s press conference here.
Governor Presents Road Map to Reform for a Better Illinois in Annual State of the State Address
Governor Rauner gave his annual State of the State Address last week on Wednesday, and made it clear that the budget impasse did not stand in the way of some significant accomplishments in 2015. Some of the achievements during his first year in office include:
  • Eliminating more than half a billion in state spending through department action
  • Beginning to get out from under the 80 different consent decrees that have accumulated from decades of mismanagement
  • Reforming the EDGE tax credit program by eliminating special deals and only providing the tax credits for actual job creation
  • Banning the “revolving door” of state officials who become lobbyists so they can make money off of the programs they designed
  • Beginning a thorough review of police procedures with regard to the use of deadly force between officers and community members
  • Starting the process of selling the Thompson Center
  • Implementing fraud reduction practices that prevented $188 million in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims
  • Taking action at the Department of Health and Family Services (HFS) that will net taxpayers more than $250 million through improved redetermination policies
  • Producing improved outcomes for children by having the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) move more children from shelters to foster homes
Lawmakers also learned about a new “transformation agenda” that will improve service delivery and add value to money spent on programs. Rauner said he will place a new focus on prevention and public health, and will stress value and outcomes rather than volume and services. His “transformation agenda” includes the following goals:
  • Moving more individuals from institutions to community care facilities so they can remain closer to their families
  • Improving the efficiency of the workforce by making public employee compensation based in part upon higher productivity and efforts to create taxpayer savings, rather than just on seniority 
  • Implementing fair and Constitutional Pension Reform (A bipartisan agreement is in the works between Governor Rauner and Senate President Cullerton on a pension proposal that will save $1 billion per year)
  • Modernizing the state’s antiquated information technology system to improve its efficiency and effectiveness through a new Department of Innovation and Technology
  • Implementing comprehensive procurement reform (legislative and administrative) in a way that maintains ethics and transparency, streamlines processes, improves flexibility and is based on other states’ best practices
  • Implementing criminal justice system reforms that aim to reduce the state’s prison population by 25% by 2025
  • Improving the Education System by eliminating wasteful bureaucracy, allocating more funds toward direct classroom instruction, reducing the amount of testing, and holding schools truly accountable for results
A recurring theme throughout the address was the need for legislators to put politics and partisan ideals aside and come together once and for all for the betterment of our great state. You can watch a video of his speech here. Following the address, I spoke with Chicago ABC News’ Charles Thomas. You can watch that clip here.

Sandack Signs on as Co-Sponsor to Bills to Fund Colleges, Universities and MAP Grants
Illinois’ institutions of higher learning have not received a dime in state revenue this fiscal year due to the budget impasse. In addition, disadvantaged students are at risk of having to leave college if their Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants are not funded. In an effort to ensure that our colleges and universities can continue educating students, and to make sure MAP grants are fully funded for qualifying students, last week I signed on as a co-sponsor of HB 4539 (Brady) and HB 4521 (Durkin). Enactment of HB 4539 would be contingent upon the passage HB 4521.

Unlike a disingenuous higher education funding bill that Democrats pushed through on Thursday that promised $721 million in funding for MAP grants and community colleges without identifying a revenue source, the package I am co-sponsoring actually funds colleges and universities and MAP grants and provides for a funding stream. It is a responsible solution to a significant problem, but unfortunately the Democrats blocked our bills and showed once again that their main concern remains politics over policy.

Our college and university presidents say they are tired of empty promises from Springfield. They say our legislation means nothing if we don’t have the revenue to fund those promises. You can watch my floor comments on the issue here.

$6.6 Billion in Unpaid State Bills Could Lead to Further Debt Downgrade
In a report published on Tuesday, January 26, the credit rating firm Moody’s pointed to Illinois’ $6.6 billion in unpaid bills as of December 31, 2015. Moody’s, the world’s largest debt-rating firm, has previously downgraded Illinois’ credit rating six separate times since 2003. Illinois is currently rated by Moody’s as Baa1 with a negative outlook. This rating, three notches above “junk bond” level, is typically interpreted by markets as signaling that Illinois bonds carry a relatively low investment-quality ranking. Moody’s labeled the unpaid-bills figure “a clear indicator of weak liquidity and governance.”

Illinois is currently carrying $27 billion in general obligation debt in global bond markets. Downgrades to Illinois’ credit rating increase the rates of interest that Illinois is required to pay, further increasing costs to taxpayers of building Illinois’ roads, bridges and other tangible infrastructure. In Illinois’ most recent sale of GO bonds on January 14, the State and its taxpayers were required to pledge to pay interest rates averaging 1.61% (161 basis points) higher than comparable interest rates faced by AAA-rated states such as Indiana.

Tax Settlement Announced at College of DuPage
The move came after the U.S. Internal Revenue Service identified nearly 100 instances of wrongful classification of high-end meals at the College of DuPage. The luxury dining experiences at the college’s white-tablecloth Waterleaf restaurant were classified by the college as legitimate operational expenses. After carrying out an audit, the IRS reclassified many of the meals eaten and charged off in 2013 as “taxable employee compensation.” Meal tickets totaling $18,351 were found to have been improperly classified. Under the tentative settlement, the college will pay $4,569 in past-due taxes on these meals.

The IRS audit was only one of several investigations that have centered on the relationship between former College of DuPage senior-level executives and the now-shuttered eatery. In its 3½ years of operation, Waterleaf rang up more than $350,000 in meals and alcohol served to senior administrators and school trustees. These Waterleaf “house accounts” have been subpoenaed for presentation to federal and state grand juries for possible criminal charges. As part of activities that include the permanent shutdown of the in-house restaurant, the College in 2015 turned over the majority of the seats on its board of trustees and dismissed former President Robert Breuder. Responding to news of the settlement, a spokesman asserted that it is the position of the College’s new leadership team to account for all expenses appropriately.

Don’t Forget to Sign Up for Vehicle Registration Renewal Reminders
Illinois has seen an uptick in tickets issues for motorists driving with expired registration stickers since the Secretary of State announced in October that his office would stop sending mailed reminders.

By using this link you can register for email reminder notices that will provide an alert when your vehicle registration sticker is about to expire. You will need to locate and have handy your annual vehicle registration document, which contains your "Registration ID" and "PIN," usually located in the top right corner of the registration document. If you receive an email reminder, that will also include the PIN number for on-line renewal of vehicle registration stickers. Click here to view a list of frequently asked questions about this issue.
Wanting to make sure Illinois’ colleges, universities and community colleges receive the critical funding needed to continue educating students during the budget impasse, today State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) signed on as a co-sponsor to two bills that would provide funding to institutions that have not seen a dime in state revenue this fiscal year.

“Less than 24 hours after our Governor extended an olive branch to work cooperatively with the General Assembly, House Democrats voted today to spend $721 million on higher education without appropriating a single penny to fund it,” said Sandack. “Conversely, the bills that I now co-sponsor not only fund our colleges and universities and fully fund MAP grants for disadvantaged students, but provide a funding mechanism too. Our package is a responsible solution to a significant problem, but today the Democrats showed their main concern remains politics over policy.”

Enactment of the bill would be contingent upon the passage of a second piece of legislation, HB 4521, the Unbalanced Budget Response Act. The Act would provide Governor Bruce Rauner with emergency spending power and some latitude to assist with managing the state’s finances during the impasse.

“Rather than send false hope to our colleges and universities and to disadvantaged students who rely on MAP grants, my Republican colleagues and I have presented a real solution that actually will pay for MAP grants and fund our institutions of higher learning,” Sandack said. “Our college and university presidents say they are tired of empty promises from Springfield. They say our legislation means nothing if we don’t have the revenue to fund those promises.”

HB 4539 includes approximately $1.68 billion in funding which is tied to the Governor’s ability to take action only if the Unbalanced Budget Response Act is also approved. “The Governor has said he will veto the hollow Democrat bill if it lands on his desk, but he collaborated on the creation of HBs 4539 and 4521,” said Sandack. “I hope all of my colleagues will support this comprehensive solution.”

As of today, both bills are being held by Speaker Mike Madigan in the Rules Committee.

You may watch Sandack's floor comments about the bill here.