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In November 2014, Illinois voters chose shared government, electing Republican Bruce Rauner as Governor while keeping Democrat majorities in the Illinois House and Senate. In his remarks at the inauguration of the newly elected and returning members of the General Assembly on January 14, longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said to Republicans that we [House Democrats] “wish to welcome you back — back to the active participation of state government.” He went further, as quoted by the Chicago Tribune, saying “…there will be many difficult roll calls up ahead. And we Democrats are very anxious to work together on those tough roll calls…”

My, how quickly things change.

Here we are, in the final weeks of the regularly scheduled spring legislative session, and in recent days we have witnessed a parade of carefully-orchestrated political theatrics from Speaker Madigan and his allies in the House of Representatives.

First, it was the budget. Democrats brought forward sixteen sham amendments disingenuously claiming they represented the Governor’s budget proposal, forcing votes on each one. None received even one solitary “Yes” vote, a clear indication of the political motivation behind them.

Next up was tort reform. On May 12, we spent an entire legislative day listening to a one-sided lecture from invited guests of Speaker Madigan on the evils of the business and insurance industries, conveniently ignoring the full scope of this important issue as it relates to Illinois’ competitiveness and the need for balance in our civil justice system.

Then on May 14, the Speaker’s agenda moved on to so-called “right to work” legislation. The Speaker introduced an amendment to a bill and dispatched one of his lieutenants to the House Floor with the disingenuous claim that the language represented Governor Rauner’s agenda, even though Madigan’s henchman admitted the bill had not been vetted by the Governor’s Office.

As if that wasn’t enough, on May 15 we were subjected to another political exercise, debating and being forced to vote on a fake property tax relief bill; one that would not actually reduce the property tax burden on suburban homeowners. When I stood up to motion that the real property tax legislation I introduced be considered (HB 136/HB 137), my request was denied by the Speaker.

Considering all this, we are left to ask, what has happened to shared governance, to the spirit of cooperation we all embraced back in January? The people of this great state are tired of the bickering and they want our state fixed. They want us to work together. It’s time for honesty and bipartisanship. My reform-minded colleagues and I will continue to stand up and be the adults in the room, advocating for an end to business as usual in Springfield and working together with our new Governor to move Illinois forward.
Today State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) joined nine members of the House Republican Freshman Class in calling for term limits in the General Assembly. Three of the new lawmakers spoke during a Wednesday Capitol press conference, where they expressed their disgust with the partisan political atmosphere that exists in Springfield, and said there is no better time than now, when the legislature is in gridlock, to advance the issue of term limits.

In spite of the nearly 600,000 Illinoisans who signed petitions last year in favor of putting a Constitutional Amendment question to voters about term limits, when challenged the initiative was rejected by the Appellate Court. As a result of the ruling, three House Republicans, including Sandack, filed legislation seeking ballot questions about term limits of varying degrees.

“On the very first day of this 99th General Assembly, I filed HJRCA1, which would allow Illinois voters to decide if term limits are a good idea for the Senate and House of Representatives,” said Sandack. “The bill was sent to the Rules Committee less than 24 hours after I filed it, and it has been bottled up there ever since. I applaud my new colleagues for bringing this important issue into the light.”

HJRCA1 would allow voters to decide if the Illinois Constitution should be amended to allow for 10-year term limits for both Senators and State Representatives. In addition to HJRCA1, this year Representative Steve Andersson (R-Geneva) filed HJRCA20, which calls for term limits of 12 years, and Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) filed HJRCA10, which calls for 20-year term limits. All three pieces of legislation were stalled in the Rules Committee and never scheduled for hearings.

“The way these bills were buried in the Rules Committee and never assigned to committees for hearings speaks to why term limits are so necessary,” Sandack said. “When one person has complete control over what legislation moves and which bills are ignored, that is a concentration of power that should not be allowed to go unchecked. Term limits would allow for a healthy turnover of leadership and representation.”

To hear more about Sandack’s HJRCA1, click here.

Weigh in on key issues in Springfield today, click below
 and voice your opinion!!!


During the last few weeks in Springfield, the House Chamber has played host to a parade of carefully-orchestrated political theatrics. Incredibly important topics like the budget, tort reform, right to work and property tax relief have not been given the time and attention deserved, but instead have been rushed to the floor with little notice and no committee deliberation.

Democrats deny that their recent actions have been politically motivated. But when negative mailings targeting specific House Republicans are postmarked less than 24 hours after a debate on a fake property tax relief bill, their true motives became pretty clear. Today I made an appeal to lawmakers that we finish this 2015 spring session in a bipartisan and cooperative manner, and that the political shenanigans give way to thoughtful policymaking that benefits all Illinoisans.
Senate Bill Committee Deadline Passes in the House
Most Senate bills had to be out of House committee by the end of last week to remain alive. As the General Assembly continues to move towards May 31 adjournment, members of the Illinois House and Senate scrambled to get committee approval for their bills. This week, May 18 through May 22, is the deadline for Senate bills to be heard on the House floor. By May 22, most Senate bills will either have been passed by the House and sent to the Governor for final signature, passed by the House as amended and sent back to the Senate for concurrence, or will have been sent to the House Rules Committee for failure to meet the deadline. Meanwhile, the Senate has a parallel deadline for House bills.

Democrats Undermine Working Groups;  Push Sham Legislation in Effort to Divide House
At a time when legislators should be working in a bipartisan manner to create the FY16 budget, House Democrats have been making a mockery of the legislative process by bringing bills to the floor they have no intention of passing. Rather than allowing the working groups on the budget and other important issues to complete their work and send appropriation and reform bills through the committee process for proper vetting, Speaker Madigan has instead decided to turn the House Chamber into a political circus. House Republicans are refusing to participate in the Speaker’s political stunts and are voting “Present” to the insincere pieces of legislation.

Human Services Funding
Two weeks ago, House Democrats short-circuited the budget process by bringing the Human Services budget directly to the House floor with little notice and no committee deliberations. They brought the multi-billion dollar spending bill to the floor before a revenue number was determined and before spending priorities were identified or vetted by the Appropriations-Human Services Committee. After voting down that budget the House Democrats filed several amendments, and cherry-picked certain programs to fund and voted on the proposals one at a time. They did this without looking at the specific spending items as part of a larger area of the budget.  Last week those games continued as the majority party brought additional human service amendments to the floor for votes.

Right to Work
On Thursday Speaker Madigan continued with the political games by prematurely pushing a right-to-work proposal onto the House floor with the language placed into the bill just hours before the vote. Again, the bill bypassed the committee process and was not researched or vetted. After almost an entire day of debate on the issue, House Republicans stood up to the Democrat shenanigans and did not cast a single YES vote in support of Madigan’s “proposal” (HB 1286, House Floor Amendment #2). House Republicans believe the working men and women of Illinois deserve better than this charade. They deserve leaders who will stand up for middle-class families, not use them as pawns in a political power struggle.
 

Property Tax Relief
House Republicans have long worked to provide Illinoisans with much needed and deserved property tax relief. Each year members of the House Republican Caucus introduce legislation that would deliver property tax relief and each year the Democrats block those measures. In fact, every year since becoming a legislator I have filed bills to address property tax relief, only to see those bills bottled up in the Rules Committee or assigned to a sub-committee and never scheduled for a hearing.

On Friday, House Democrats took a shell bill and amended it with weak tax freeze language that had not been researched or vetted, and they did it with the sole purpose of creating division in the House of Representatives. After hours of grandstanding by Democrats on their insincere amendment, I attempted to move my HB136 out of the Rules Committee so it could be heard on the House floor.

HB136 seeks to freeze tax rates in years of declining property values, and would utilize a three-year average assessment process for determining when the freeze would be lifted. It is a real bill that controls property tax extensions. It was carefully and thoughtfully drafted as a serious solution to a very real problem. Not surprisingly, after wasting 2 ½ hours on their sham amendment, when given the opportunity to move a real tax relief bill to the floor, the Democrats blocked it. Their decision to block my bill from being heard says a lot about their lack of sincerity with regard to providing tax relief.
Though the majority party’s behavior on these three issues and others, the Democrats have shown clearly that while Illinois is facing an unprecedented budget crisis, they would rather scheme to score political points than work across party lines to actually solve the problems their policies have created.

District 81 Youth Serves as Page for a Day in Springfield
Last week on Tuesday I was joined on the House floor by 5th grader Maggie Clark from El Sierra School in Downers Grove. Maggie participated in the General Assembly’s Page for a Day program, which is open to school-aged children across the state. If you are a resident of District 81 and have a child who would like to spend a day as a page for the House of Representatives, please contact my Springfield office at (217) 782-6578 to make the arrangements. It is a good opportunity for youth to see Illinois government up close and in action!

House Unanimously Approves Detailed Performance Audit of College of DuPage
In a unanimous show of support for the taxpayers who fund the College of DuPage (COD), the House of Representatives approved a resolution on Thursday that will launch a thorough performance audit of the college.

I am a Chief Co-Sponsor of HR 55, which was filed in response to the decision by the COD board to provide outgoing College President Dr. Robert Breuder with a $763,000 severance package in exchange for his early departure as College President. Through the language in HR55, the COD will assume the costs associated with a detailed audit the covers the following:
  •  The College of DuPage’s sources of revenues
  • College expenditures, by category
  • Whether the Board is carrying out its responsibilities required by Board policy
  • Whether the Board is meeting its fiduciary responsibilities and ensuring compliance with the Public Community College Act and Board Policies
  • Whether the compensation and severance packages provided to the COD president are comparable to compensation and severance packages provided to Presidents of other Illinois Community Colleges
  • Whether changes to the College President’s compensation package were properly approved
An amendment approved prior to the final vote Thursday expanded the scope of the audit to include the COD Foundation’s actions in the investigation.

You can read my press release on the passage of the resolution here.

Moody’s Reduces Chicago’s Credit Rating to Junk Bond Status
The downgrade to what Moody’s calls “Ba1,” a junk-bond level, was announced on Tuesday, May 12, and affects $8.1 billion in city general-obligation debt.  The moved marked semi-official acknowledgement, by a major player in global debt markets, that there is material risk that Chicago may on a future date fail to repay its bondholders in full and the city may default on its debts. The New York credit-rating agency attributed this move to the Friday, May 8 decision by the Illinois Supreme Court to discard recent moves toward pension reform.  As recently as March 2014, Moody’s rated Chicago debt at A3.  With this May 2015 move, Chicago’s GO bonds will no longer be suitable for most purposes of fiduciary investment, including investments by pension funds, annuity funds, and funds operated by Wall Street that provide savings options to workers enrolled in 401(k) plans. Junk-bond debt often continues to trade back and forth between speculators and aggressive income-oriented investment funds.

White House Confirms Future Obama library will be Built on Chicago’s South Side
The widely leaked decision was officially disclosed on Tuesday, May 12. Insiders expect that the Obama Presidential Library and Museum will be constructed with private donations and will not require a capital investment by the State or its taxpayers. Chicago’s Martin Nesbitt, who will head the foundation that will fund the planning and construction, has not yet disclosed where on the South Side the presidential complex will be built. The University of Chicago, in cooperation with Chicago’s City Hall, is recommending sites in Chicago’s Jackson Park or Washington Park. Both locations would be physically close to the Obamas’ longtime family home in Chicago’s Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood, as well as the University of Chicago Law School where Obama served as an instructor.     
After spending 2 ½ hours Friday on a political stunt aimed at embarrassing the Governor and making House Republicans look like they do not favor tax relief for their constituents, when presented with an opportunity to bring a comprehensive tax relief bill to the floor, House Democrats blocked it.

After a sham amendment sponsored solely by Democrats was discussed and voted upon, State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) attempted to have his HB136 released from the Rules Committee and brought to the floor for a discussion and vote. HB136 seeks to freeze tax rates in years of declining property values, and would utilize a three-year average assessment process for determining when the freeze would be lifted. Unlike the Democrats’ amendment, which would freeze all tax rates in all cases forever regardless of circumstance, the Sandack measure sought a realistic and fair solution for taxpayers.

“We spent most of this morning on yet another effort by House Democrats to divide, rather than unite the General Assembly,” said Sandack. “They put forward a weak partisan amendment that had not been thoroughly researched or vetted, and they did it with the sole purpose of creating division in the House of Representatives. My HB136 is a real bill that controls property tax extensions; it was carefully and thoughtfully drafted as a serious solution to a very real problem. Their decision to block my bill from being heard says a lot about their lack of sincerity with regard to providing tax relief.”

According to Sandack, HB136 was filed in January after a great deal of research into the issue of climbing tax rates during periods of declining property values. Upon being filed, it was promptly sent to a subcommittee, and never given a hearing. “Much of my legislative agenda since becoming a lawmaker has been focused on taxpayer protection initiatives, so to watch the majority party play political games with an issue as important as tax relief is incredibly disheartening.”
At the conclusion of a divisive day in the House of Representatives on Thursday, lawmakers came together and gave unanimous support to a resolution that authorizes a detailed performance audit of the College of DuPage (COD).

According to resolution co-sponsor State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove), HR55 was filed in response to a decision by the COD board earlier this year to provide outgoing College President Dr. Robert Breuder with a $763,000 severance package as an enticement for him to leave his post early. Shortly after the lucrative contract buyout deal was uncovered, it was also learned that Dr. Breuder, other administrators and trustees had enjoyed close to $200,000 in fine dining at the COD-operated campus restaurant, and that more than $250,000 had been spent on a public relations campaign to try to repair the college’s image.

Through HR55, the College of DuPage will assume the costs associated with a detailed audit that covers the following:
  • The College of DuPage’s sources of revenues
  • College expenditures, by category
  • Whether the Board is carrying out its responsibilities as required by Board policy
  • Whether the Board is meeting its fiduciary responsibilities and ensuring compliance with the Public Community College Act and Board Policies
  • Whether the compensation and severance packages provided to the COD President are comparable to compensation and severance packages provided to Presidents of other Illinois Community Colleges
  • Whether changes to the College President’s compensation package were properly approved
An amendment approved prior to the final vote expanded the scope of the audit to also include the COD Foundation’s actions in the investigation.

“Over the last few months it seemed that almost weekly we were learning of new instances where the College of DuPage trustees were making bad spending decisions with taxpayer resources,” said Sandack. “I am glad that the newly-elected board is going to cooperate with the investigation so we can finally unearth all of the information about the College of DuPage’s past governance and spending practices. The taxpayers deserve to know the full details of how their tax dollars were misspent.”