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In acknowledgement of votes taken in 2015-2016 that affect Illinois small businesses, State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) has been named a “Guardian of Small Business” by the Illinois branch of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Hays scored a perfect 100% in an NFIB review of his voting record.

Honorees were chosen based on their votes on 11 key bills during the 99th General Assembly. The bills included: HB 6162, SB 2964, HB 3887, HB 1285, SB 162, HB 1287, SB 2933, HB 4036, SB 11, HB 5576 and HJRCA 26. Lawmakers who received an 80% or higher rating received the award.

According to Kim Clark Maisch, State Director of NFIB/Illinois, Hays is a true champion of small business across Illinois. “Representative Hays’ 100% voting record on key small business issues demonstrates his strong commitment to our state's job creators,” she said. “Representative Hays has stood up time and again and fought for the rights of small businesses and their ability to keep their doors open in a state and isn't known for being friendly to business.”

Hays said it was an honor to be recognized for his voting record in support of Illinois’ small businesses. “The men and women who start and run small businesses are the primary job creators in Illinois,” said Hays. “These are the people who have the ability to put Illinoisans back to work, and as lawmakers we must support their efforts.”

NFIB/Illinois includes over 11,000 small business members from across the state. A link to a summary of the 11 key business bills and an overall tally and ranking of all Illinois State Representatives and Senators can be found at: http://www.nfib.com/pdfs/Illinois-Voting-Record.pdf.
Frustrated with the recent Illinois Supreme Court decision that found the Independent Maps Coalition’s fair maps proposal unconstitutional, State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) is partnering with Republican State Representative Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) to push a new fair maps initiative that allows citizens to draw legislative maps with the guidance of a non-partisan commission.

“Everywhere I go I hear from Illinois citizens who feel their voices are being silenced on the issue of fair maps,” said Hays. “The people want to elect their legislators; they do not want majority party legislators to draw maps that all but remove the public’s voice in who represents them.”

Through HJRCA 60, filed Tuesday in Springfield, issues brought forth in the Supreme Court ruling are addressed. A commission as outlined in the Constitution would provide tools and necessary data to citizens to help them create a map that meets Constitutional requirements, and then the commission would rank the citizen maps according to a defined scoring rubric. The top three ranked maps would then be forwarded to the General Assembly for up or down votes on each proposal. Members of the House and Senate would be prohibited from making any changes to the citizen-created maps that came to them. In the event that consensus is not reached on one map, the Secretary of State would step in and certify the map with the highest rubric score.

“One of the main issues that led to the unconstitutional ruling by the high court is the make-up of the commission,” said Hays. “HJRCA 60 keeps the formation of that commission identical as outlined by the Constitution, but changes its function from actually drawing the map, to providing the information needed for citizens to draw a Constitutionally-sound map. It gives the people of Illinois the primary voice in map creation, and if successful, would end partisan control of the map-drawing process once and for all.”

Both Fortner and Hays believe the wording of this legislation falls within the guidelines set forth in the legislative article of the Illinois Constitution. If approved by the General Assembly and implemented, the new mapping process would apply to the redistricting that will take place in 2021, and would affect the boundaries for the election in 2022.
Hays Named “Friend of Agriculture”
It was such an honor recently to receive the Illinois Farm Bureau “Friend of Agriculture” award. Agriculture is by far our State's #1 industry and Champaign and Vermilion Counties are home to some of the best producers and most fertile soil on planet earth. Efforts that support agriculture are very important to me and as a legislator I am committed to helping those in the agriculture industry with their goal of improving food production practices and ensuring a plentiful and safe food supply.

Hays Meets with DACC Current and Past President
On August 29 it was a pleasure to meet with new Danville Area Community College President Dr. Stephen Nacco and retiring DACC President Dr. Alice Jacobs. We discussed the importance of adequate state funding for our community colleges and other state-funded institutions of higher learning and how I could advocate on their behalf in Springfield. In this picture, I’m shown with Dr. Jacobs, DACC Board Chair Dave Harby and Dr. Nacco as they graciously present me a framed copy of the wonderful news story when I was named the "DACC Distinguished Alumni". It is a distinction that I will always cherish.

Hays Signs On as Chief Co-Sponsor for New Attempt at Legislative Fair Maps
When Illinois’ highest court voted 4-3 against a citizen-led effort to put a Fair Maps proposal on the November ballot, people all over the state were upset because they felt citizen voices were being silenced. While there will not be a Fair Maps referendum question on this year’s November ballot, this week I signed on as a leading sponsor of a new initiative that takes into consideration the comments of the Supreme Court Ruling and seeks to change the map-drawing process in a way that is fair to citizens and respectful of Constitutional mandates. If successful, HJRCA 60 could end partisan control of the map process once and for all.

HJRCA 60, filed Tuesday by Republican State Representative Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago), would grant the citizens of Illinois significant input into legislative mapmaking. Whereas today the majority party draws maps that protect their incumbents and their majority status, this new amendment would allow citizens to draw boundaries based on a list of Constitutional requirements. Through HJRCA 60, a non-partisan commission would provide tools and information to citizens to ensure maps align with mandates set forth in the Constitution. Once citizens have created draft maps, the commission would rank those maps according to a defined scoring rubric. After the maps have been scored, the top three maps would be brought to the House and Senate, where lawmakers would vote up or down on the proposals with hopes of reaching agreement on one map. Lawmakers would not be able to amend any of the maps. If no consensus is reached on a map, the Secretary of State would certify the map that had the highest rubric score.

If approved and implemented, the new map process would take effect with the redistricting effort of 2021 for legislative elections in 2022. I look forward to working with Representative Fortner on this important initiative.

Governor Nears Completion of 2016 Bill Signings
The General Assembly passed 443 bills in the first half of calendar year 2016, and more than 90% of these bills have now been signed into law. Of the forty bills vetoed by Governor Bruce Rauner, 30 are total vetoes and ten are amendatory vetoes. The Constitution of Illinois gives the General Assembly one shot at accepting the Governor’s amendatory vetoes or overriding his amendatory and/or total vetoes. Acceptance of an amendatory veto requires a simple majority in both houses, while overriding a Governor’s veto requires a three-fifths majority in both houses. Actions on vetoes are a traditional focus of the General Assembly’s fall veto session. The veto session will be held on the third and fifth weeks of November. 

New Laws Expand Hunting and Fishing Opportunities in Illinois
Included in the list of bills signed into law this year are four initiatives that expand hunting and fishing opportunities for Illinoisans. On “Conservation Day” at the Illinois State Fair this year, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law the following bills:
  • Senate Bill 2410 expands the youth license program to include trapping. People younger than 18 may apply for a license, and must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or older who also has a valid state trapping license.
  • House Bill 5788 adds catfish to the list of fish that can be taken by bow fishing, or the use of specialized archery equipment to shoot them.
  • House Bill 4604 allows for permits to take bobwhite quail, chukars and gray partridge on public hunting grounds.
  • Senate Bill 3003 allows the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to offer free landowner hunting permits for deer and turkey as long as the landowner has at least 40 acres. The bill also combines the application for deer and turkey into one, and requires the IDNR to hold a youth turkey season for two consecutive weekends instead of the current one weekend.
IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthal said in a statement that the new laws will “help our conservation efforts and will allow a new generation to develop a love for the great outdoors here in Illinois.”

LIHEAP to Accept Applications for Low Income Energy Assistance Program
The state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) began accepting applications for winter heating assistance for seniors and people with disabilities on September 1. LIHEAP and the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) program are funded as part of the stopgap funding plan signed into law by Governor Rauner. LIHEAP is a state and federally funded energy assistance program for low-income families, in which heating bill payments are made on behalf of households. Applications are processed through a network of 35 local administering agencies around the state. These agencies will accept applications on a first-come, first-served basis. Residents must bring all required documentation when applying for assistance, including:
  • Proof of gross income from all household members for the 30-day income period beginning with the date of the application.
  • A copy of their current heat and electric bills issued within the last 30 days (if they pay for their energy directly). 
  • A copy of their rental agreement (if they are renting) showing that utilities are included, the monthly rental amount and landlord contact information. 
  • Proof of Social Security numbers for all household members. 
  • Proof that their household received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD); or other benefits, such as Medical Eligibility or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), if receiving assistance from the Illinois Department of Human Services. 
A single-person household can qualify with a monthly income of up to $1,485; a two-person household up to $2,003; a family of three can earn up to $2,520; and a family of four can earn up to $3,038. For a complete listing of LIHEAP’s local administering agencies and additional information about the program, go to www.liheapIllinois.com, or call the energy assistance toll-free hotline at (877) 411-WARM.

Motorists Urged to be Aware of Sharp Penalties for Passing a Stopped School Bus
With the start of the new school year, school buses are once again a familiar sight in morning and afternoon hours. Significant penalties exist in law for the act of passing a stopped school bus with flashing lights and extended stop-sign arm. Traffic must remain stopped until the lights have stopped flashing and the stop-sign arm withdrawn. In addition to fines imposed by the local court, the Secretary of State is instructed by law to suspend, for three months, the driving privileges of a licensed driver who violates this law. A Secretary of State hearing officer may, but is not required to, grant restricted-driving privileges to a driver whose license is under suspension for this offense. These penalties apply to traffic going in both directions on any road narrower than four lanes. On a four-lane road with at least two lanes of traffic moving in the opposite direction to the bus, only motorists going with the bus are required to stop. 

New Concussion Guidelines Affect Coaches and Players in Contact Sports
High School football season is well underway across Illinois, and this year new concussion guidelines, adopted by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), are in place to help reduce the frequency of concussions in contact sports. One key feature of the new guidelines is a requirement that student-athletes be tested and monitored during contact-sports activities. The oversight activities are meant to diagnose concussion events as fast as possible.

The guidelines also require that, once a student-athlete is found to have sustained a concussion or suspected concussion, they must undergo further monitoring and testing prior to being asked to resume their studies or authorized to return to a playing field. Once diagnosed, they will not be able to play again until a doctor has granted explicit permission for them to do so. The new concussion guidelines will be enforced, in each school, by the concussion oversight teams that each Illinois school that plays sports is now required to have. The guidelines followed passage of the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, a 2015 law that asked the IHSA, licensed Illinois athletic trainers, and other professionals and educators to come together to develop a new program for reduction of sports concussions starting in the 2016-17 school year.

Twelve Human Service Agencies Discussing Medicaid Revamp
One of the causes of Illinois’ budget crisis is the compounding cost of the State’s Medicaid program. Medicaid, the family of programs that provides reimbursements for medical treatments provided to many persons with challenged personal or income standing, spends billions of dollars every year. It is an “entitlement” program, which means that the General Assembly cannot easily enact legislation to cut the cost of the program. Most of its beneficiaries have a right, under federal law, to many of the services that the Illinois Medicaid program provides to them.

Some of the costs of Illinois Medicaid are covered by the federal government. One of the features identified by the Rauner administration are growing gaps between what Illinois could apply for in Medicaid aid and the reimbursements in fact received by the State. Next week, the Rauner administration will hold hearings in Springfield and Chicago on an interdepartmental proposal to close some of these gaps. Advocates believe that adoption of the Rauner plan could create standing for Illinois to apply for $2.7 billion in additional federal Medicaid funds over a five-year period. Features of the proposal include improved housing services for persons whose health concerns are deemed to put them at risk for becoming homeless and pre-release services for prisoners.
Hays Joins Dignitaries and DACC Leaders to Discuss Community College Funding
Earlier this month I joined House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and officials from Danville Area Community College for a frank discussion about the future of higher education funding. As a strong advocate of community college systems in our state, I recognize how blessed we are in this area to have such a well-managed community college in DACC that is staffed with a strong faculty and has excellent leadership. We discussed Illinois’ challenges, but all agreed that as budget discussions move forward, it is imperative that these systems receive equitable funding. 

Tourists Spent $37 Billion in Illinois in 2015
The new numbers come from the Illinois Office of Tourism, which monitors visitor spending in Illinois as a way of gauging a return on investments for the money from hotel/motel taxes spent to promote Illinois to out-of-staters. Estimated expenditures by tourists in Illinois were $37 billion in 2015, up an inflation-beating 2.6% from 2014.

According to the Office of Tourism, an arm of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, tourism generated an estimated 10,000 new Illinois jobs in 2015. Job creation is featured in the Office of Tourism’s “Illinois Made” campaign for 2016, a multimedia promotion that centers on the attractive opportunities for visitors to buy goods and services produced by Illinois craftspeople and small businesses.

Governor Signs Bills Honoring Gold Star Families, Increasing Services to Illinois Veterans
Governor Bruce Rauner recently took action on several bills as part of Veterans Day at the 2016 Illinois State Fair. The bills strengthen Illinois’ commitment to our veterans and their families by providing needed assistance and honor to those who have sacrificed so much for our country and our state.

Two of the bills support the families of our Illinois veterans. HB 4389, sponsored by Rep. Steven Andersson, designates the day after Gold Star Mother’s Day as Gold Star Family Day to be observed throughout Illinois as a day to honor and commemorate the families of men and women who gave their lives while serving with the armed forces of the United States.

HB 4432, sponsored by Rep. Don Moffitt, allows a child in any grades 6 through 12 to be absent from a public school for the purpose of sounding “Taps” at a military honor funeral held in Illinois for a deceased veteran. Read more about HB 4389 and HB 4432.

HB 4627, sponsored by Rep. Mike Tryon, allows veterans to begin their college education upon discharge regardless of how the calendar year lines up. Read more about HB 4627.

HB 4344, sponsored by Rep. Mark Batinick, creates the Heroes Way Designation Program Act. It is a way to honor servicemembers who were killed in action by allowing a relative to apply to have an honorary sign with the name of the servicemember erected along designated Illinois roads.

Hays Visits Aunt Martha’s Clinic in Danville
This month I had an opportunity to tour Aunt Martha’s Clinic in Danville with Congressman John Shimkus. We had a nice conversation with clinic leaders about the health care and dental services they provide to a diverse population of area residents. Their team-based approach to improving the health and well-being of their clients and patients is inspiring, as they frame their delivery model around their core values of excellence, diversity, collaboration, innovation, commitment and passion.

Current Rate of Traffic Deaths show Fatalities Mounting to Projected Eight-Year High in 2016

Based on current statistical trends, more than 1,000 people will be killed on Illinois roads and highways in 2016. The dismal number is attributed by traffic experts to higher speeds, with speed limits up to 70 mph on many sections of Illinois limited-access highways. An increase in the total number of Illinois miles driven and a larger number of younger drivers are also blamed.

The 1,000-death projection is based upon the 629 Illinois traffic deaths that had been logged as of Friday, August 12 by the National Safety Council, a private-sector entity that works with local law enforcement and health providers to track accidents and injuries nationwide, including motor vehicle incidents. The Council has, in the past, played a key role in injury-reducing changes to motor vehicle law, including mandatory child restraints and a standardized law to identify and sanction persons who drive under the influence.

New Private Foundation will Cooperate with State of Illinois to Preserve Threatened Fairgrounds
A private foundation has been created to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure that supports Illinois’ largest summer gathering, the Illinois State Fair. The 104th District will have a voice in the decisions being made, and one of my constituents, George Czapar of Urbana, was chosen by the Governor to serve on this foundation board.

With an estimated $180 million in deferred maintenance costs, the more than 190 buildings of the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair in Southern Illinois’ DuQuoin will require massive rebuilding to maintain a safe and secure fairgoing experience. Electrical, paint, plumbing, roofing, and structural repairs must be done on buildings that were built as long ago as 1892.

Governor Bruce Rauner led the push to create the new Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation. Established by private-sector leaders of the agricultural community, the foundation will raise private funding and coordinate the revitalization and improvement of both fairgrounds. It is expected that large donors may receive recognition for their generosity in the form of sponsorship opportunities that will be seen by the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the Fairs and their grounds. Creation of the Foundation was the culmination of a push to save the State Fairgrounds led by Rep. Tim Butler and by former Rep. Raymond Poe, both of Springfield. Former Rep. Poe is currently the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the State agency with overall responsibility over the State fairgrounds and state fair infrastructure.
Legislation sponsored by State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) that will increase the efficiency of data collection practices for Illinois’ community colleges has been signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner.

HB 6009, now known as Public Act 99-0655, reduces data redundancy and eliminates data collections that are not vital to the goals established by the Illinois Community Colleges Board (ICCB). The new law also removes sections of the Community College Act that are outdated, and clarifies the coordination of specific responsibilities between the Illinois State Board of Higher Education (IBHE) and the Community College Board.

“This is a common sense initiative that will bring a new level of efficiency to our institutions of higher learning,” said Hays. “By removing archaic requirements and duplicated services, and streamlining the data collection process, our community colleges are granted more autonomy, and administrators receive relief from burdensome paperwork that is not necessary.”

Hays went on to say that by cleaning up the Board of Higher Education Act and the Public Community College Act, community colleges will be able to refocus on issues that directly benefit teaching and learning. “One great example is from 2015, when the ICCB approved 95 different locally-funded projects and leases, including a one dollar land purchase,” Hays said. “These people don’t need to be spending their time micromanaging projects that are funded locally. It was not a good use of their time.”

The provisions of the new law took effect on July 1 of this year.
Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that his office has reinstated the mailing of vehicle registration reminder notices to Illinois drivers. To offset the cost of the mailings, White is drafting legislation allowing his office to offer advertising space on the mailings. In addition, White is urging the public to sign-up for email notices to further reduce mailing costs.

The Secretary of State’s office discontinued mailing reminders in October 2015 due to the lack of funding as a direct result of the state budget impasse. The stop-gap budget recently passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor allows White’s office to reinstate the notices.

“The notices are an essential tool for the public to be sure their vehicles are in good standing and avoid paying late fees and fines resulting from tickets issued by law enforcement,” White said. “The driving public paid the price for the budget impasse and it proved to be an unfair burden. With the funds from the stop-gap budget the notices will resume. In addition, we are reducing the number of mailings and seeking alternative funding sources for the postage costs.”

“Although we are now able to reinstate mailing the vehicle registration reminder notices, I continue to strongly urge motorists to sign up for email reminders,” said White. “Saving taxpayer dollars is always a priority of our administration.”

White noted that more than 2.3 million people have registered for the email notification, 800,000 of which signed up since October 2015.

Vehicle owners can sign up for email notifications by visiting the Secretary of State website, www.cyberdriveillinois.com. To register for the program, vehicle owners will need their assigned registration ID and PIN, which can be found on their current vehicle registration card. If that information is not available, they can call the Secretary of State public inquiry division at 800-252-8980 to obtain the Registration ID and PIN.

The one-time registration process will allow vehicle owners to receive a series of three email notices per vehicle each year highlighting the upcoming vehicle expiration date.
Hot Air Balloons Light Up Skies at “Balloons Over Vermilion” Event
A hot air balloon festival that had been on a 15-year hiatus returned to Vermilion County over the weekend for “Balloons Over Vermilion” on July 15-16. Thirty-three colorful balloons were a part of the two-day festival which was held on the grounds of the Vermilion Regional Airport north of Danville. In addition to the hot air balloons, visitors to the festival enjoyed live music from several bands (including my own band, the Boat Drink Caucus), an antique car show and other activities. It was my privilege to co-sponsor one of the balloons featured at the festival.

My most sincere gratitude and appreciation goes out to the Julius W. Gegeler II Foundation, which graciously stepped forward and donated $100,000 as the title sponsor of the event. A great time was had by all, and I certainly look forward to Balloons Over Vermilion becoming an annual summer event in this part of Illinois.

State of Illinois Completes Rollout of New Job Opportunity for Unemployed Illinoisans
Illinois JobLink is a resume-posting platform operated by the Department of Employment Security (IDES) that is open to persons seeking employment in Illinois. Under a new policy going into effect on Sunday, July 17, persons filing for Illinois unemployment benefits after being laid off are going to be asked to fill out and post their resumes on Illinois Job Link as a condition of completing their application for benefits.

The Department is aware that some of the people who need to file for benefits will have some questions about how to complete the JobLink process and complete a resume. The JobLink home page can be found here. In past years, nearly 60% of Illinois unemployment benefit filings did not include a work history or resume, despite the importance of these documents to potential employers. IDES believes that linking JobLink resume filing with unemployment benefits will speed up the hiring of unemployed persons who may have work experience and credentials of which they are not fully aware, and will reduce unemployment by increasing publicly posted information about the Illinois residents who are motivated to find a job.

New I-Refi Program from IHDA will Help Some Under-Water Homeowners
The program, from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), is aimed at homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the home itself is worth. Eligible homeowners, starting August 1, will be invited to apply for admission to the “Hardest Hit” program. Residents and families helped by the program could see a reduction in the amount of unpaid equity remaining on their mortgages. A mortgage financing data tracker, CoreLogic, reports that approximately 14% of all Illinois home mortgages are currently underwater.

The Illinois program is being backed by $45.7 million in U.S. Treasury funding. It is projected that 1,800 homeowner applicants will successfully apply for admission to the program and will get debt-reduction assistance of approximately $25,000 per home. Applicants to the program, which is targeted towards modest and middle-class home in challenged geographic areas, will be granted a maximum of $50,000 in debt-reduction assistance. The assistance will be credited towards the debt owed on a new, private-sector 30-year mortgage. A list of 25 participating mortgage-finance lenders has been mobilized by IHDA. These firms will refinance the homes of participating mortgagors at market rates.

To qualify, applicants must owe at least 10% more than the value of their home, up to $50,000. Despite being under water, they must have been current on making mortgage payments for at least the past 12 months and must live in the home. Household income eligibility is determined by a sliding scale keyed towards the number of persons in the household and the geographic location of the household. The maximum purchase price of the home is also one of the variables used to gauge overall potential eligibility for admission to the program.

High School Students to Stop Taking PARCC Tests
The State Board of Education announced on Monday, July 11 that beginning in the spring of 2017, high school students would no longer have to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Instead, the State will subsidize and supervise the administration of a statewide SAT college entrance exam in spring 2017. Students in 11th grade will take the SAT. The SAT is administered according to an established nationwide protocol and its results are published in numbers that are relatively accessible and familiar to students and educators. SAT tests will be administered in compliance with the State law evaluating high school student body performance and progress. Students in grades 3 through 8 will continue to take separate PARCC tests geared to their age groups.

Representative David Welter Appointed to Serve Northern Illinois Legislative House District
Republican leaders in the 75th District have appointed David Welter to represent the district in the Illinois House of Representatives. The district centers along communities close to Interstate 80, including Morris and Seneca, comprising portions of Kendall, Grundy, LaSalle and Will Counties. Welter’s appointment came after former 75th District Rep. John Anthony resigned in June to accept a new job as executive assistant to the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Under State law, the appointment was made by the four GOP chairpersons from the counties located within the 75th District. The chairpersons cast a weighted vote by population of their counties within the vacant district. The selection of Welter, the current Grundy County Board Chairman, was unanimous. Welter will maintain a district office in Morris, Illinois to serve his constituents. Committee assignments are pending. Welter, who had served on the Grundy County Board since 2010, will also run for a full term as state representative on the November 2016 ballot. Welter was appointed State Representative on Saturday, July 9.