Legislative Update: March 21, 2016

Record Number of Illinois Voters Participate in Primary Election
Illinoisans came out in large numbers last Tuesday to have their voices heard in the March 15 Primary Election. Early voting records were shattered across the state, as voters cast their ballots, and the Election Day numbers were equally as impressive. Thank you to all candidates who chose to put themselves out there and run for public office. It is not an easy task. Whether they won or lost on Tuesday, all candidates are to be commended for giving Illinois voters a choice at the ballot box.

FFA Students Visit State Capitol for 2016 Agriculture Day
One day I look forward to every year is Agriculture Day at the State Capitol. The building is buzzing that day with high school students from chapters of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) from across the state. Students from Georgetown Ridge Farm and their instructor Justin Howard were part of this year’s group. They are shown here in my Springfield office. It was a great day, and I hope they enjoyed their time at the Capitol.

Mahomet Aquifer Provides Drinking Water for 800,000 Illinois Residents
The Mahomet Aquifer underground waterflow, buried in past Ice Ages, serves a wide variety of rural and small-town residents of eastern and central Illinois. Most of the aquifer is hidden from the public, with only a few surface outcroppings visible in the form of water towers of pumping stations that rely upon the aquifer for their water supply. The traditionally clean water of the aquifer could be affected by increasing uses of the soil above it for landfill and chemical usage, including PCB chemicals.

In response to concerns raised by Central Illinois families, water authorities and lawmakers, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency announced plans last week to increase the ongoing and continuous monitoring of the aquifer. Test wells will be drilled and samplings will be taken adjacent to existing, operating landfills. Champaign, DeWitt, Ford, Iroquois, Logan, McLean, Mason, Piatt, Tazewell, and Vermilion Counties are among the counties whose residents get their drinking water from the aquifer.

HB 1326, a bill for which I served as a Chief Co-Sponsor, was signed into law in August 2015. This law represents work by the General Assembly to protect the Mahomet Aquifer from potential landfill pollution.

Rep Hays Celebrates Dr. Seuss with Local Students
Earlier this month I had a great time celebrating the great books of Dr. Seuss with kindergarten students from Miss Witzel’s class at Southwest Elementary School in Tilton. My visit to this school has become somewhat of an annual event, and I really enjoy reading from this great author’s magnificent collection.

Dr. Seuss was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts and eventually wrote 44 children’s books that were translated into more than 15 different languages. More than 200 million copies of his books found their way onto bookshelves worldwide. He was the winner of two Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Dr. Seuss died on September 24, 1991.

General Electric Announces Creation of New Jobs in Greater Chicagoland
One hundred tech workers will staff GE’s new Digital Solutions office in central Chicago, and 60 additional positions will be created at the existing GE digital healthcare office in northwest suburban Barrington. Up to 160 new Chicago-area jobs are expected to be created as a result of the pair of moves by the global business firm, which is undergoing a series of administrative changes as it moves its overall world headquarters from Connecticut to Boston.

General Electric has previously announced that it will move its overall healthcare headquarters from London to Chicago. The global business firm has many ties to Chicago, including its Chicago-based Transportation division; GE Transportation specializes in railroad locomotives and other transport solutions.

As Spring Driving Season Approaches, Gas Prices Soar in Illinois
The average price per gallon charged for motor fuel increased 18 cents during the week ended Monday, March 14. Statistics compiled by the motor fuel website GasBuddy.com indicated that during this period the price of gas rose from $1.88 per gallon to $2.06 per gallon. This marked the second highest increase for the week among the 50 states, with prices rising 19 cents per gallon in neighboring Missouri.

Illinois gas prices were 12 cents per gallon higher than the nationwide average of $1.94 per gallon. Gas prices tend to be higher than the national average in Illinois because of relatively high tax rates, particularly in the Chicago area. People who buy gas within Chicago city limits must pay separate slices of tax to the federal government, the State of Illinois, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Cook County, and the city of Chicago. The State of Illinois charges separate taxes upon motor fuel by the gallon (Road Fund excise tax) and by the dollar (General Funds sales tax). As recently as August 2012, gas cost an average of $4.31 per gallon in Chicago.

As State Fiscal Crisis Worsens, Procurement Reform could Save more than $670 Million
The savings from modifications to the Illinois Procurement Code, the law that governs how Illinois and its state universities are required to purchase goods and non-specialty services, would come from speeding up the process and creating a new class of pre-cleared bidders who could compete in future Requests for Proposals (RFPs) without time-consuming verifications.

After studying the operation of the existing Procurement Code, the Rauner Administration released the results of a preliminary study in February, which indicated that the enactment of a package of reforms could generate as much as $514 million in procurement savings to be enjoyed directly by the State of Illinois, with additional savings of $159 million by state universities. Reforms advocated by the Governor include a preclearance process and the creation of a new position of state chief purchasing officer (CPO) in a personnel move that would mirror the organizational table of many large private-sector enterprises and firms. A key bill in this package is House Bill 4644.