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Governor Signs “Federal Funds” Measure Pushed by House Republicans
The measure “holds harmless” essential State spending lines that are not burdens on taxpayers who pay income and sales taxes. SB 2042, as amended in the House on Wednesday, August 12, will “pass through” monies given to Illinois for programs mandated or strongly encouraged by Washington, D.C. Governor Rauner signed SB 2042 into law on Thursday, August 20.

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

Before passing through the House, SB 2042 was carefully stripped of State taxpayer-funded items that will increase the State’s budget deficit. House Republicans continued to draw attention to the piecemeal FY16 Illinois budget taking shape, but noted that federal dollars should not be subject to the ongoing budget battle in Springfield. The House vote on SB 2042 was 98-0-0. Prior to the vote I expressed my opinion on the shenanigans that led to the ultimate vote to approve the federal-only money. You can watch a video of my remarks here.

Central IL House Republican is Lead Sponsor of New Law to Crack Down on Fly-By-Night Tire Dumps
SB 1590, sponsored by State Representative Reginald Phillips of nearby Coles County, directs the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to study any application for a permit to operate a storage site for the disposal of discarded motor vehicle tires. The bill was signed into law on Tuesday, August 18.

SB 1590 will require the IEPA to look at the prospective owner or operator of a tire storage facility, and if this person has a history of repeated violations of sage tire storage law, to deny a permit. Consumers of tires are required to pay a $2.50-per-tire user fee when a tire is sold, and this fee is supposed to cover the cost to the IEPA of regulating the waste-tire disposal stream and cleaning up past accumulations of disposed tires. Unregulated tire dumps often catch fire and generate significant quantities of sulphur and airborne particulates. Allowing the opening up of new unregulated tire dumps raises the possibility that this $2.50 fee may have to be increased in some future budget year. Denying a permit to these fly-by-night dumps, by contrast, will straighten out and reduce the flow of unregulated discarded tires and maintain the stability of the tire disposal system.

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

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

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

West Nile has hit Illinois in previous summers. In 2014, state health officials reported 44 cases of West Nile virus in Illinois. In addition, other infections may have taken place that were not reported. In four of the 44 reported cases, the patient died.

John Baldwin Named as New Director of Department of Corrections
Governor Bruce Rauner has named John R. Baldwin as director of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). IDOC is the operational agency over more than 35 state prisons, work camps, boot camps, and transition centers, as well as office-based supervision of parolees in all 102 counties of the State.

Baldwin was named on Friday, August 14, and will serve as acting director pending confirmation by the state Senate. A former head of the Iowa Department of Corrections, he led our neighboring state’s 4,000-employee agency for eight years (2007-2015).
Several Illinois counties, including Champaign and Vermilion, are now eligible for low-interest emergency loans due to heavy rains and flooding that occurred in June and July.

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

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

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

Farmers from these counties are encouraged to contact their local Farm Service Agency if they have questions. Loan applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and applicant’s repayment ability. Those with additional questions can also contact the state FSA office at (217) 241-6600. Additional information can be found at the USDA’s Farm Service Agency web site.
After blocking efforts by House Republicans for the last three weeks to bring a bill to the floor that would stop automatic pay raises for legislators amid the budget crisis, today Speaker Madigan brought his own very similar bill to the floor for a vote.

State Representative Chad Hays had this to say about the Speaker's motives.
Illinois continues to face an unprecedented fiscal crisis. As of late, there is no clear solution in sight, and the budget impasse continues in the General Assembly.

The state is suffering from a debt burden of over $100 billion, and despite this crisis, Speaker Madigan pushed a bill through last year to guarantee pay raises to state legislators for FY16. This pay raise not only includes a salary increase but also increases the per diem and mileage reimbursement rates given to legislators. The state cannot afford to give legislators a raise and I have repeatedly voted against automatic cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). It is completely wrong as legislators to give ourselves a pay raise when our state’s finances are in turmoil and no budget is in place.

At the same time, we do not have the ability to refuse this pay raise. Speaker Madigan created this automatic pay increase when the aforementioned bill passed last year. House Bill 4225, filed this year by several House Republicans, seeks to rectify this problem. This bill amends the Compensation Review Act, and prohibits any financial adjustments that were previously recommended and determined for compensation. I signed onto this bill in full support. As of today, our caucus has tried three times to have House Bill 4225 released from the Rules Committee so we could vote to reject the raises. On all three occasions Speaker Madigan’s strongest allies in the House blocked our effort to bring our bill to the floor.

I believe that House Bill 4225 is a step in the right direction and will continue to push for its release from Rules and passage. I am ready to work together with my fellow legislators to create a balanced budget for our state, and help fix our finances.
Democrats Continue Push for Unbalanced, Unconstitutional Budget
As the State of Illinois entered the second week of its fiscal year without a balanced budget in place, House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton continued to take a piece-meal approach to the budget crisis.

Democrats again backed a temporary budget to fund certain services at a level that is not sustainable over the course of the entire fiscal year. SB 2040, passed by the bare minimum of 71 partisan Democrat votes in the House Thursday, does not contain one-month spending levels based on the projected FY16 revenue estimate of $32 billion. The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget believes this plan will ultimately require the expenditure of over $36 billion of GRF taxpayer resources for FY16. As approved, SB2040 marches the taxpayers of Illinois toward a $4 billion unbalanced budget, one month at a time.

On Thursday I expressed my disappointment in the lack of progress toward approval of a balanced budget. You can listen to my remarks here.

Three Different Courts Hear Case of State Employee Pay
Three different courts heard testimony last week about whether or not State employees should be paid during the budget impasse, and by the end of Thursday, there were two starkly different results.

On Tuesday, a Cook County circuit judge ordered that the Comptroller was not allowed to pay the full payroll to state employees without an appropriation. The same order allowed the Comptroller to pay eligible state employees the federal minimum wage pursuant to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. At the same time, the judge signed off on an agreed order that allowed the Comptroller to expend monies for non-appropriated funds, continuing appropriations, consent decrees and judicial operations.

The Comptroller, CMS and the unions appealed the first court order to the First District Appellate Court. A four judge panel issued a temporary restraining order staying the order to pay employees the federal minimum wage until the Appellate Court is fully able to rule on the appeal. The TRO also barred the Comptroller from paying the full payroll. In essence, the TRO prevents the Comptroller from paying any wages to state employees. The Court also provided for an expedited hearing process and should offer a ruling on the appeal no later than July 20th.

On Thursday, a St. Clair County circuit judge held a hearing on the matter filed by AFSCME and twelve other unions on the same issue of employee payroll. The unions argued that full payroll should be paid, even without an appropriation, because of the Contracts Clause of the Illinois Constitution. The St. Clair County judge, according to media reports, issued a verbal order that allows the Comptroller to process the full payroll for all State employees, based on the inability of the Comptroller to differentiate union employees from non-union employees. The Comptroller’s Office has indicated it will indeed process the full payroll, based on the order. The Attorney General’s Office has indicated it will appeal the order.

House Republicans Introduce Bill to Ensure State Workers Get Paid
Last week I signed on as a sponsor of HB 4245, which designates pay for State workers as a “continuing appropriation,” a category that legally outranks the lack of a formal State budget. Enactment of HB 4245 would ensure that State and public university employees would be paid on July 15 and succeeding pay periods throughout FY16. Shortly after signing on as a sponsor, I spoke about the importance of the legislation. You can listen to that interview here.

HB 4245 covers all State agencies, the offices of constitutional officers such as the Secretary of State, State universities, community colleges, and a wide variety of ancillary agencies and offices in which payroll expenses are supported by State appropriations. Many House Republicans co-sponsored HB 4245 and the measure was fully supported by Governor Rauner.

Chief bill sponsor Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer took to the House floor Thursday to push for a fair hearing on his legislation to ensure State workers continue to receive their paychecks. Unfortunately, House Democrats chose to block the bill, and refused to release it from the House Rules Committee.

Governor Rauner, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin File Revised Turnaround Illinois Plans
As a signal to voters that the continued Illinois budget impasse only increases the evidence that substantial reforms are needs, Leader Durkin and Governor Rauner worked together this week to refile and re-launch “Turnaround Illinois.” This package of five key reform measures represents movement together fulfilling of the issues platform that the people of Illinois supported in November 2014 when they voted for Governor Rauner.

The planks of the Turnaround Illinois platform filed this week include tort reform (HB 4246); a two-year freeze on Illinois property tax extensions (HB 4247); workers’ compensation reform (HB 4248); term limits for elected State officials (HJRCA 41), and nonpartisan redistricting (HJRCA 42).

New Rules Ban Outdoor Smoking on Illinois College, University Campuses
The Illinois Smoke-Free Campus Act took full effect on Wednesday, July 1 at community colleges and State universities throughout Illinois. The law, which is implemented through local university and college boards of trustees, forbids smoking and the use of any tobacco product on campus.

The Smoke-Free Campus Act was enacted by the General Assembly in spring 2014 as SB 2202. The ban was given a July 1, 2015 effective date so as to give colleges and universities ample time to prepare implementation of the measure. Signs banning outdoor smoking are now familiar sights in Illinois public higher education. The move follows up on the actions of many individual Illinois boards of trustees and university/college presidents who have taken action on their own to ban outdoor campus smoking. The University of Illinois banned outdoor smoking at Urbana-Champaign on January 1, 2014.

Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, an advocacy group, reports that as of July 1, 2015, there are now 1,577 campuses throughout the United States that are described as “100% smokefree.” 1,078 of these campuses also ban nonsmoking tobacco products.

General Assembly Sends Concealed Carry Trailer Bill to Governor
In spite of the budget division in Springfield, there are many issues that continue to receive bipartisan attention from the Illinois General Assembly. The concealed carry trailer bill is a spring 2015 measure that looks at and solves many of the glitches affecting the 2013 Firearm Concealed Carry Act.

Concentrating on issues that involve the interaction between an armed citizen and a member of law enforcement or a member of emergency services personnel, SB 836 describes what members of each group should do during these encounters. For example, this bill clarifies that if a citizen licensed to carry a concealed firearm is contacted by law enforcement or emergency responders, the officer may secure the firearm or direct that it be secured during the duration of the contact.

The House vote to pass SB 836, as amended, was 84-23-3. House Republicans Ed Sullivan, John Anthony, and John Cavaletto co-sponsored the measure, which is expected to be signed into law soon.

Waters Continue to Rise in Illinois
Heavy summer rains continue to worsen floodwater conditions. Water is standing in many farm fields, leading to severe crop damage for many farm owners and operators. This was the wettest June in Illinois history, with an average of 8.91 inches of rain falling. More rain fell in early July.

Conditions are especially challenging in the Peoria area, where the Illinois River is running well above its banks. Many bottomland parcels are devoted to camping and boating, but these activities have been disrupted or ruined in summer 2015. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency continues to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

Illinois is now two weeks into FY16 and there is no sign of progress toward a balanced budget for the year that began on July 1. This week in Springfield, State Representative Chad Hays suggested the doorman lock the chamber doors and keep lawmakers in session until a deal is reached.
Wanting to make sure hard-working state employees are paid during the FY16 budget impasse, today State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) joined several of his Republican colleagues in sponsoring a bill that would allow state agencies to meet their payroll obligations in the absence of an approved State budget.

“There are tens of thousands of hard-working State employees who are expected to go to work every day even though there is no authority for the Comptroller to issue their paychecks this month,” said Hays. “These individuals must be able to provide for their families, and HB4245 will allow them to get paid.”

HB4245 seeks to amend the State Budget Law of the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois to provide for a continuing appropriation for each State agency to meet personnel expenditures for each payroll period when a permanent budget is not in place. The bill would apply to all state agencies and also include state universities, community colleges and other areas where personnel expenditures are typically made through an annual State budget. Funding for salaries would match the appropriations made in FY15.

“We must be fair to our state employees and their families,” said Hays. “This budget mess is not their fault, yet there are some who are very willing to use these people as pawns in a political game of ‘chicken,’ to see who blinks first. Paying these folks is the right thing to do and this bill should receive unanimous support in both chambers of the General Assembly.”

To hear Rep. Hays speak about the bill, click here.