Legislative Update: March 7, 2017

Hays Joins Lawmakers and Judges for Swearing In of Newest Circuit Judge
I was honored last week to be in attendance as Charles Hall was sworn in as our area’s newest Circuit Judge. I have known Judge Hall for many years and have worked with him on a number of community-based projects. He was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Claudia Anderson and his appointment took effect on March 1, 2017.

Judge Hall received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1969. He then served on active duty with the United States Marine Corps and later in the Marine Corps Reserve. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Arizona in 1973. Judge Hall is a member and past president of the Vermilion County Bar Association and also a member of the Illinois State Bar Association. Congratulations Judge Hall and family!!

Rep. Hays Celebrates Reading with Local Schools
Last week I had a great time celebrating the brilliance of Dr. Seuss with Ms. Witzel’s 1st grade class at Southwest Elementary School in Tilton. I look forward to this visit every year, 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.

State Senate Passes Five “Grand Bargain” Bills
The measures were passed on Tuesday, February 28. House consideration could be delayed, however, by the insistence of many proponents that the bills be discussed as part of an overall package of spending and budget reforms. The Senate has not approved several of the key elements of the “grand bargain” reform package, including changes to future public-sector pension plans and benefits. Senate President John Cullerton, as the keeper of the Senate clerk’s desk, may choose to exercise his right to delay moving the bills over to the House for further action.

The Senate bills, if enacted into law, would appropriate some emergency spending lines for the second half of FY17, ending June 30, 2017. The bills are intended to raise money for these spending needs through various means, including a major expansion in legal gambling in Illinois. SB 7 would allow for the licensure of major new casino operations throughout Illinois, including in Danville. The familiar “video gaming” machines installed in many Illinois taverns and restaurants would be allowed to make jackpot payouts.

Budget challenges continue to affect the State of Illinois. The February 2017 monthly revenue report and estimate released by the nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) indicated a continued decline in State general funds tax revenues in February 2017. Personal income tax revenues decreased in February 2017 by $129 million from the same levels of taxes paid in one year earlier. Illinois corporate income tax revenues have practically dried up, with only $9 million (down 81%) received from this source in February 2017.

Hays Helps Honor State Champion Basketball Tem at Local Assembly
Last week it was a privilege to participate in an assembly honoring the North Ridge Middle School Basketball Team on their recent State Championship. I will host these young men, their coaches and their families in Springfield on March 14 for official recognition by the House of Representatives. Congratulations to these men on their 28-0 season which culminated with a State title!

Emergency Crews Respond to Damaging Storms
The powerful storms roared through Illinois late Tuesday, February 28. Several EF-3 tornadoes generated by the line of storms hit Illinois. The current Illinois death toll from these storms and associated tornadoes is 3 persons. At least 14 people were injured, and severe property damage was reported in and around Ottawa-Naplate in northern Illinois, near Christopher and Crossville in southern Illinois, and in other communities.

Governor Bruce Rauner toured the Ottawa area on Wednesday, March 1, and thanked the tornado first responders. The Illinois Emergency Management Authority continues to coordinate the State’s response to the storms.

Site Selection Magazine Honors Illinois as Potential Location for Job Creation
A magazine aimed at CEOs and corporate executives has honored Illinois as one of the top states in the U.S. with the most qualifying new and expanded facilities per capita. A total of 434 new job-creating projects of the types tracked by Site Selection were announced in 2016. In the eyes of the magazine, this made Illinois the No. 3 “site selection” state in the U.S. in 2016, with Texas and Ohio as #1 and #2.

Projects tracked by Site Selection include corporate headquarters, manufacturing plants, R&D operations, and logistics sites. They must involve a capital investment off at least $1 million, create at least 20 new jobs, or add at least 20,000 square feet of new floor area. Illinois House Republicans have made a specialty in recent years of pushing for new logistics sites, with the General Assembly enacting changes to Illinois tax law to encourage this class of investment and job-creating activity. Rep. Christine Winger’s HB 3245, scheduled for a hearing in the House Revenue Committee next week, is one of the bills that continues this push.

Site Selection noted that almost all of the private-sector investment activities they tracked in 2016 were concentrated in the Chicago area. Of the new Tier 1 job-creating projects noted by the magazine, 424 were located in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin expanded Chicagoland metropolitan area.

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