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Hays Recognized for Pro-Business Votes in General Assembly
This week I was honored to learn that I received a perfect score from the Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA) for votes I took in 2015 that affect business and technology.

Lawmakers in the House were judged on their votes on 12 different bills. It was my pleasure to join with manufacturing, technology and economic development leaders in east central Illinois to bring the jobs of tomorrow to our area.

When announcing my perfect score, TMA President Steven Rauschenberger said, “Representative Hays’ voting record shows he understands and supports middle class opportunities in Illinois. Manufacturing jobs are some of the best paying jobs in Illinois, and Representative Hays has consistently supported public policy that encourages manufacturers to stay, grow and relocate to Illinois.

Hays Co-Sponsors Bills to Provide Funding for Higher Education
In an effort to ensure that Illinois’ colleges, universities and community colleges receive the funding needed to continue educating students during the budget impasse, I recently co-sponsored legislation that would provide critical dollars to institutions that have not seen a dime in state revenue this fiscal year.

HB 4539’s enactment would be contingent upon the passage of a second piece of legislation, HB 4521 (Durkin), the Unbalanced Budget Response Act. HB 4521 would provide the Governor with emergency spending power and a significant amount of latitude to assist with managing the state’s finances during the ongoing budget stalemate. Whereas other higher education funding proposals on the table have called for funding our institutions of higher learning without identifying a revenue source, this package would provide the Governor with the latitude to manage this crisis. Unfortunately, Speaker Madigan chose to shelve our legislation and instead push through Democrat-sponsored legislation that promised funding for community colleges and MAP grants, but provided no funding source. Governor Rauner has suggested he will veto any higher education funding bill that lands on his desk which does not provide for a funding stream.

Hays Signs on as Chief Co-Sponsor of Procurement Reform Bill
This week I joined other lawmakers from the House and Senate to introduce pivotal legislation that will reform the state’s procurement practices and result in significant savings for Illinois taxpayers. Today’s procurement practices are bad for vendors, bad for providers, and ultimately bad for taxpayers. A 2009 law, as well-intentioned as it may have been, actually more than tripled the amount of time it takes to complete a Request for Proposal, adding more than $500 in costs to the process. HB 4644 would completely overhaul our procurement system, and deliver better outcomes and better value for taxpayers.

Specifically, HB 4644 would:
  • Increase flexibility and efficiency by:
    • Allowing state agencies to create a pre-qualified pool of vendors
    • Allowing cooperative purchasing, enabling the state to “piggyback” on the procurements of other states and services from Illinois businesses
  • Create a “Buy Illinois” preference for buying supplies and services from Illinois businesses
  • Revise the current, burdensome Chief Procurement Officer structure
  • Require an audit of procurement every two years by the Auditor General while allowing the AG to perform surprise audits on the agencies to ensure laws and statutes are being followed
To hear more about this bill, click here.

Hays Participates in Community Events Around the 104th District
On January 26 I was thrilled to participate in the Balloons Over Vermilion press conference and official kick-off for this summer’s return of a community hot air balloon event. Set for July 15-16, our area skies will be filled with beautiful hot air balloons as part of a festival that will be held at the Vermilion Regional Airport north of Danville. My sincere gratitude and appreciation is extended to the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation, which has graciously stepped forward and donated $100,000 as the title sponsor of the event. At this time it is expected that approximately 30 hot air balloons will fill our skies during the two-day event.

On January 29, a great time was had by all at a fundraising basketball game for the Danville YMCA, which was held at halftime of a Danville Riverhawks game. I’m pictured here with the “Dream Team,” and the great and very talented kids from the YMCA. Yes, the kids ran us off the floor.

Preliminary Damage Assessments Underway from December-January Flooding
On Thursday I learned that State officials were in the area this week to survey the damage caused by the flooding between December 23 and January 13. I’m told the review will extend into the weekend, with an anticipated completion date of February 8. Once the completed documentation is submitted, the information will be reviewed so that a determination can be made whether the state meets the threshold for a declaration of a federal disaster. Typically, we do not meet the threshold for federal aid for these weather events, but I am pleased to know that Vermilion County is being surveyed for damage. Illinois has until February 12 to submit a request for the federal disaster designation from the President.
Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) was recognized this week by the Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA) for his commitment to job creation in Illinois.

The Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA) released its first legislative scorecard yesterday, which ranks legislators based on their voting records. Representative Hays’s record earned him a perfect 100 out of 100.

“Manufacturing jobs are more than just jobs. They are careers,” said Hays. “I am thrilled to join with manufacturing, technology and economic development leaders in east central Illinois to bring the jobs of tomorrow to our area.”

The TMA Legislative Scorecard found that in 2015 only 42% of Illinois House members and 39% of the Illinois Senate could be identified as pro-manufacturing.

“Representative Hays’ voting record shows he understands and supports middle class opportunities in Illinois,” said TMA President Steven Rauschenberger. “Manufacturing jobs are some of the best paying jobs in Illinois, and Representative Hays has consistently supported public policy that encourages manufactures to stay, grow and relocate to Illinois.”
State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) joined other lawmakers from the House and Senate today to introduce pivotal legislation that will reform the state’s procurement practices and result in significant savings for Illinois taxpayers.

“Today’s procurement practices are bad for vendors, bad for providers, and ultimately bad for taxpayers,” said Hays. “A 2009 law, as well-intentioned as it may have been, actually more than tripled the amount of time it takes to complete a Request for Proposal, adding more than $500 in costs to the process. HB 4644 would completely overhaul our procurement system, and deliver better outcomes and better value for taxpayers.”

According to Hays, HB 4644 would:
  • Increase flexibility and efficiency by:
    • Allowing state agencies to create a pre-qualified pool of vendors
    • Allowing cooperative purchasing, enabling the state to “piggyback” on the procurements of other states and services from Illinois businesses
  • Create a “Buy Illinois” preference for buying supplies and services from Illinois businesses
  • Revise the current, burdensome Chief Procurement Officer structure
  • Require an audit of procurement every two years by the Auditor General while allowing the AG to perform surprise audits on the agencies to ensure laws and statutes are being followed
“While improving the efficiency and value, this legislative solution maintains important ethics and transparency safeguards while streamlining bureaucracy,” said Hays. “Strong oversight will be preserved, and taxpayers have the ability to realize $500 million in savings. It is good, common sense legislation that I hope every lawmaker will support.”

To hear Rep. Hays talk more about this bill, click here.
In an effort to ensure that Illinois’ colleges, universities and community colleges receive the funding needed to continue educating students during the budget impasse, State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) is filing legislation that would provide critical dollars to institutions that have not seen a dime in state revenue this fiscal year.

The legislation’s enactment would be contingent upon the passage of a second piece of legislation, HB 4521 (Durkin), the Unbalanced Budget Response Act. HB 4521 would provide the Governor with emergency spending power and a significant amount of latitude to assist with managing the state’s finances during the ongoing budget stalemate. “This is a legislative solution that is well past-due,” said Hays, who represents many citizens who attend or work at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana, or at the Parkland or Danville Area Community Colleges. “Whereas other higher education funding proposals on the table have called for funding our institutions of higher learning without identifying a revenue source, this package would provide the Governor with the latitude to manage this crisis.”

The higher education funding bill includes the following funding levels:
  • Four-year Colleges/Universities: 80%
  • Two-year Community Colleges: 90%
  • MAP Grants: 100% funding at 2015 levels
According to Hays, the total package 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. “Our two and four-year institutions of higher learning are at a breaking point with regard to their ability to keep their doors open,” said Hays. “Since every member of the General Assembly represents at a minimum one community college district, with many of us also representing other colleges too, my hope is that both measures receive prompt consideration and approval. The Governor is in support of this package and helped collaborate on it. I would implore my colleagues in the House and Senate to take swift action on these bills.”
Last week’s floods have had a devastating impact on many communities in central and southern Illinois, and today Governor Rauner increased the number of counties that will have access to a variety of State resources to help communities respond and recover. Vermilion County is now part of that 23-county list.

A state disaster declaration by the Governor triggers the availability of resources like sandbags, sand, pumps, trucks, inmate crews and other assistance items that can help ensure public safety during the flood response. The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield was activated on December 28, and remains in place to coordinate flood response efforts such as the deployment of personnel and resources to affected areas.

As flood waters begin to recede, local emergency management personnel will begin collecting damage information from affected property owners and units of government. The collected information will be forwarded to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), where it will be reviewed so that a determination can me made whether the total damages meet the threshold for a federal disaster declaration (required for federal dollars to become available). If it appears the State meets the federal assistance criteria, the Governor can request a major disaster declaration from the President.

If a federal disaster declaration is made, two types of federal assistance will become available:

  • Individual Assistance Program: offers grants and low-interest loans to people affected by the flood
  • Public Assistance Program: provides reimbursement up to 75% of eligible costs incurred by local governments as they engage in flood recovery efforts
According to the Governor’s office, while there is no defined damage amount for Individual Assistance, past experience suggests that it takes hundreds of homes with severe damage to qualify for the program. To that end all homeowners with damage are encouraged to file a report. The Public Assistance program has a population-based threshold, which for Illinois is $18.1 million statewide. If and when the state meets the statewide threshold, individual counties would also have to meet a threshold of $3.56 times the county’s population.

Additional updates on the flood and recovery efforts can be found on the Ready Illinois website at www.ready.illinois.gov.
Comptroller Munger to Expedite Payments for Domestic Violence Shelters, 911 Service
Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger announced last week that legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor will allow her office to swiftly process payments for local governments, 911 emergency phone services, Lottery winners and domestic violence shelters.

"I have directed our staff to process payments for domestic violence shelters, local governments, 911 services and Lottery winners as soon we receive the necessary vouchers," Munger said. "Domestic violence shelters have entered their sixth month without payments and are turning away women and children. Local governments also provide critical services to our families and communities. I am committed to ensuring these organizations and local governments are paid promptly so they can avoid further hardship."

Munger noted that payments for local governments, 911 services, and the Lottery can be made swiftly because the necessary dollars are set aside in independent state funds dedicated to those purposes. However, domestic violence shelter payments come from the state's General Revenue Fund, which currently has a nearly $7 billion bill backlog. To provide relief to those social service organizations, Munger has directed that domestic violence shelter payments be prioritized and paid upon receipt of a voucher from a state agency.

Munger encouraged shelters and other vendors with payment questions to contact the Budget Hotline she established at 1-855-IL-ASK-US. She applauded the General Assembly and Governor for reaching an agreement on the newly authorized funding, and encouraged all involved to build on that momentum.

Hays Joins area Lawmakers for Legislative Event for Champaign Area Chamber of Commerce
Last week on Monday, December 14, I had the privilege of speaking to a full room of business owners from the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce. I was joined on the panel by Senator Chapin Rose, Senator Scott Bennett and Representative Carol Ammons for a frank discussion about the budget impasse and legislative initiates that affect the area. Most of the time was spent, however, fielding questions from the chamber members. I appreciated the opportunity to connect with the local business community.

Madigan a No-Show at Most Recent Budget Meeting
Governor Bruce Rauner held another meeting last week with the four legislative leaders to discuss issues standing in the way of the enactment of constitutional balanced budget. While House Speaker Mike Madigan was in attendance for the first two meetings, he was a no-show at the meeting in Chicago on December 17.

The high-level meeting took place a few days after sharp criticisms were leveled against the Speaker, who told attendees at a recent gathering at the City Club of Chicago, that the State needed to look at re-instituting a 5.0% personal income tax rate on individual Illinois incomes. Madigan’s move in January 2011 to pass a bill to enact the first 5.0% individual income tax rate was the largest tax-hike law in Illinois history.

New Law could Allow for Digital Driver’s Licenses on Cellular Phones
The digital driver’s license would contain the same information as what is found on a plastic driver’s license. It would display as an app on the license holder’s smartphone. The Illinois move follows a policy push in the neighboring state of Iowa, where lawmakers have created a pilot program intended to push for the implementation of electronic digital driver’s licenses in the Hawkeye State as soon as 2016.

The Electronic Driver’s License Task Force, convened this fall to help Illinois to look into this technological possibility, was created this year by SJR 11, sponsored in the Illinois House by Rep. Steven Andersson. Any movement toward digital driver’s licenses will have to be implemented by the Driver Services division of the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State. If the resolution creating this Task Force is amended by SJR 36, the Task Force will be asked to report to the General Assembly on its findings no later than May 1, 2016.

Hays Participates in Wreath Ceremony at National Cemetery in Danville
I was honored and humbled last week to participate in laying wreaths on the graves of our wonderful Veterans at the National Cemetery at the VA in Danville as part the Wreaths Across America initiative. Over 2,200 wreaths were placed on the graves of heroes who serviced with extraordinary honor and distinction, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of a very grateful nation.

DNR Reports on 2015 Firearm Deer Hunting Season
Illinois’ wildlife management agency counted 86,771 tagged deer during the 2015 Firearm Deer Season, a seven-day event that closed on Sunday, December 6. This was an increase of 13% over the 76,575 deer tagged in the comparable season in late 2014. Secondary seasons, including the December 11-13 Muzzleloader Season, may lead to additional deer being successfully hunted in Illinois.

Safe Holiday Cooking
As Christmas approaches, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is once again distributing its online safety brochure, “Food Safety During the Holidays.” With a wide variety of foodstuffs being thawed and cooked for a typical family gathering, the Department is renewing its advice on safe conduct when things to eat are being handled or being processed at room temperature. The DPH brochure includes a chart showing minimum safe meat-thermometer temperatures for roasted meat and poultry, and a list of minimum standards to be followed in the use or disposal of leftovers.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
As we end 2015 and prepare to usher in 2016, I hope you are all able to spend quality time these next few weeks with family, friends and other loved ones. While this has indeed been a difficult year for the State of Illinois, we all have a lot for which we can be truly grateful. From my family to yours, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a bright and prosperous new year!
Governor Rauner, Legislative Leaders Hold Budget Summit
On Tuesday, December 1, Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders met in Springfield for the first time in months to discuss the budget impasse. There was a frank and full exchange of views on issues dividing the four caucuses, but unfortunately the summit did not lead to a comprehensive agreement on a Fiscal Year 2016 budget. The leaders did, however, agree to hold additional meetings to hopefully end the budget stalemate.

Motor Fuel Taxes, 9-1-1 and other Funding will Flow to Municipalities and Agencies Soon
On Wednesday, December 2, the House approved legislation that will allow Motor Fuel Tax receipts and funding for 9-1-1 service to flow to municipalities and townships. The language, which was presented as an amendment to SB 2039, also included funding for lottery winners and for programs that serve veterans and battered women, for low income energy assistance programs, and for mental health services for vulnerable citizens. The bill now awaits “concurrence” by the Senate, which is in Springfield today (December 7). Governor Rauner has already said he will sign it when it lands on his desk. The House almost unanimously approved many of the provisions included in the bill in November, but Speaker Madigan used his draconian House rules to block it from moving to the Senate at that time. While I would have preferred to see the funding released to our local governments sooner, I am pleased to know that municipalities, townships and valuable agencies will be receiving their funds soon.

Unemployment Insurance Reforms Receive Bipartisan House Support
In a showing of bipartisanship in Springfield, members of the House also gave final approval last Wednesday to sweeping reforms to the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act. The reforms, agreed to jointly by the Governor, the business community, and labor organizations, represent a significant step forward to strengthen the backbone of our economy, innovators and entrepreneurs. HB 1285 received unanimous support by the 110 legislators in attendance on December 2. Specifically, HB 1285 prevents a $470 million tax increase on employers by eliminating a scheduled increase in employer contributions that would have taken effect in 2016. The legislation also eliminates the Social Security Offset to provide greater security to elderly and disabled workers, and strengthens the misconduct provisions to ensure greater protections to employers.

House Approves Resolution in Honor of Fallen Vermilion County Soldier
In honor of a Vermilion County resident who was killed in 2009 during service to his country in Afghanistan, a segment of Illinois Route 1 between Westville and Georgetown will now be known as Sgt. Kenneth R. Nichols Jr. Memorial Highway. HJR 99 was approved unanimously on December 2. Sgt. Nichols grew up in Chrisman and graduated from Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School. He died on December 1, 2009 when his unit was attacked by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. At the time of his death, Nichols had served for four years in the U.S. Army. HJR 99 provides much deserved recognition to a soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and through this highway designation, his memory will live on forever and will serve as a reminder for us all that we have brave men and women who deserve our gratitude and respect for their decision to protect our freedoms.

University of Illinois Increases Financial Aid, Acceptance of Applicants from Illinois
An AP analysis of the Urbana-Champaign campus (UIUC) of Illinois’ largest state university indicates that admissions of students who gave an Illinois address as their home address recently increased by 11% over the previous year. The year-over-year increase used the 2014 UIUC fall term as the baseline and the 2015 fall term as the active population.

The UIUC admissions office had to make changes in other variables in order to achieve this significant change in the population of students who accepted their admission to UIUC. A slight drop was recorded in average figures posted by admittees on the primary test, the ACT, used by UIUC for admissions purposes. The university also offered slightly more generous packages of financial aid to many of its admitted students, with financial aid increasing by $5.4 million over the previous year. UIUC financial aid is concentrated among students from low-income families and under-represented identity groups.

The changes reported by UIUC and tabulated by the Associated Press represent a partial strategic turn away from the university’s previous “business model” of concentrating its recruiting efforts among international students. In many cases, international students have very high test scores and pay full or nearly-full tuition rate schedules. UIUC continues to conduct significant recruitment efforts overseas. Illinois’ flagship campus reports that 5,295 students with a Chinese home address are enrolled in Urbana-Champaign this fall, representing 12% of total campus enrollment.

Hays Takes Pledge to not Text while Driving
On November 30 I joined State Senator Scott Bennet and Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhaur in taking a voluntary pledge to not text while driving. The “It Can Wait” campaign encourages drivers to keep their eyes on the road and not on their phones, and to date 7.6 million people have signed the pledge. A recent survey revealed at nearly four in ten drivers admit to using social media on their phones while they are driving; an alarming statistic. I answered a challenge presented to the community by AT&T and high school students from Danville High School and First Baptist. You can take the pledge too by going to www.itcanwait.com. I would encourage everyone to make a personal pledge to stop this dangerous behavior. No message is worth risking one’s life.

Nativity Scene and Holiday Tree Now on Display at Illinois Capitol
On December 1, a dedication ceremony was held for the State Capitol’s Nativity Scene. The nativity scene joins a two-story holiday tree and other symbols of the holiday season in the Capitol rotunda. This marks the sixth year that the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee has brought the display to the Capitol. The display is open to the public during normal business hours throughout December, so if your holiday travels bring you near Springfield, please try to find time to see the display in the rotunda.

Key New York Debt-Rating Firm Issues Warning to Illinois
Citing Illinois’ continued budget crisis and unfunded State pension liabilities, Moody’s warned Springfield that the State’s credit rating could be lowered to junk-bond levels.

Moody’s, which publishes public credit ratings that are closely monitored by investors and investment fund managers, currently ranks Illinois’ general obligation debt at Baa1. Baa1 is three notches above non-investment grade, which in Moody’s terminology starts at “Ba1” and goes down from there. Many investors refuse to invest in non-investment-grade interest-bearing securities, or sharply underweight these holdings, because of the risk that the securities could fall into default or bankruptcy. Most of the 50 U.S. states have debts rated at Aaa or Aa1 by Moody’s, which are the two highest rankings granted by the firm. This is due to these states’ perceived solvency and prudence at handling their fiscal balances. In many cases, the taxpayers who are represented by higher-ranking states enjoy lower interest rates and lower tax burdens as a result of their states’ perceived fiscal prudence and sound management.

Illinois currently owes approximately $6.7 billion in unpaid State bills. These are obligations presented to the State by providers of goods and services awaiting payment. A typical unpaid bill is presented by a hospital or health care clinic for services provided under the State’s fast-growing Medicaid program. In its most recent solvency trough, suffered in November 2010, the State of Illinois owed $9.9 billion in unpaid bills for goods and services. Continued inability to pass a constitutionally balanced FY16 budget could cause the State to once again approach this record number.