Did you know that 98% of the businesses in our state are small businesses? These are the people who have the ability to put Illinoisans back to work, and as lawmakers we must support their efforts. In acknowledgement of votes taken in 2015-2016 that affect these primary job creators, last week I was named a “Guardian of Small Business” by the Illinois branch of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
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, and lawmakers who received an 80% or higher rating received the award.
Kim Clark Maisch, State Director of NFIB/Illinois, had this to say about my support of the small business community: “Representative Hays’ 100% voting record on key small business issues demonstrates his strong commitment to our state's job creators. He 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 that isn't known for being friendly to business.”
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.
Fall Harvest Begins amid Forecasts of Bumper Crops
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which monitors corn and soybean yields and production in Illinois and other states, has issued an optimistic forecast as Illinois farmers begin to cut and bring in their 2016 corn crop. The federal prediction is that Illinois growers will bring in 2.3 billion bushels of corn from 11.5 million acres planted, a yield of approximately 200 bushels per acre. This 200 bushels/acre figure would tie the record posted by Illinois farm operators in 2014. The 2.3 billion bushel figure for total production would be Illinois’ second-largest corn crop ever, just behind 2014.
After the corn comes in, farmers with bean fields will work to cut and harvest their soybeans. The current USDA predictions for Illinois look at the state’s farmland producing a harvest of 600 million bushels of the protein-rich legume, reflecting a projected yield of 61 bushels per acre. Both figures, if achieved, would be Illinois records. Yields were held back one year ago, in 2015, due to wet field conditions and other suboptimal weather patterns. While some parts of Illinois experienced heavy rain in the summer of 2016, the precipitation tended to come down in a sequence that allowed fields with drainage tiles to shed excess moisture. Dry weather will become even more important as the harvest continues. The Illinois corn harvest was 9% complete as of Sunday, September 18.
State of Illinois gets Improved Grade on Information Technology Implementation
The grade was awarded by the nonpartisan Center for Digital Government, which surveys the 50 states and rates their status on digital technology issues. As a result of its responses to the 2016 Digital States Survey, Illinois was upgraded from C+ in 2014 to B+ in 2016. The Center for Digital Government’s journal affiliate, “Government Technology,” credited the new Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (IDIT) for sparking much of the upgrade. Before the creation of IDIT in early 2016, each State department had its own information technology division. In many cases, departments ran and stored their data on non-compatible or even unique software; in a few cases, the software programs used to perform specific State government tasks were decades old.
In his executive order creating the new Department, Governor Rauner directed 38 separate State departments to begin transferring responsibility over their data processing functions to IDIT, which was directed to use its new functionality to develop compatible software, sharply increase the ability of computers in different State departments to talk to each other, and move the State’s data processing from a traditional, centralized model based on 20th-century mainframes to the cloud-based dispersed data processing technology of the 2010s. “Government Technology” reports that Illinois’ reliance on cloud-based data processing is moving from close to 0% in 2015 to 3% in 2016. Further progress is expected to yield 28% cloud-DP by 12/31/17, and 70% by 12/31/18.
Circuit Court Judge Issues Medical Cannabis Order Favoring Patients with Chronic Pain Conditions
The decision, if allowed to stand, would add “chronic pain” to the list of 34 conditions that qualify a patient to seek a cannabis dispensary card. Under the Illinois medical cannabis pilot program, a patient must be diagnosed with an eligible health condition and receive a go-ahead from that patient’s longtime health care provider before the patient can apply to the Department of Public Health for a medical cannabis registry identification card.
Patients with cannabis cards have the right to enter an Illinois dispensary and purchase medical cannabis. Health conditions that make a patient eligible to apply for a medical cannabis card include cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), rheumatoid arthritis, severe fibromyalgia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A small number of growers’ permits and dispensary permits have been distributed to the private sector to operate highly secure facilities throughout Illinois. The Cook County circuit decision, handed down on Wednesday, September 21, is subject to appeal by the Attorney General and is not yet law.