Rep. Wheeler's Weekly Roundup: January 27

State of the State Address
·         Governor Rauner optimistic about the State of the State.  In his third annual State of the State Address, Governor Bruce Rauner indicated that he is optimistic about the future of Illinois and used the opportunity to talk about Illinois’ accomplishments, as well as the work that still lies ahead.

The Governor recognizes the state’s challenges, but with great challenges comes great opportunity. He is optimistic these challenges can be solved by working together to improve the future of Illinois. He discussed the administration’s accomplishments including ethics reform, record education funding, job creation and making government more efficient. While much work lies ahead, we build on the bipartisan agreement that change to the system needs to occur with passing a truly balanced budget.

The Governor also encouraged the General Assembly to pass legislation allowing voters to weigh-in on fair maps and term limits. The Governor believes that by working together we can build on these changes and address the problems facing our state.

You can watch the video of the address or read the speech.

Please visit The Caucus Blog to read reactions from several members of the Illinois House Republican Caucus after listening to the Governor's address.

Budget
·         House Republicans respond to Attorney General Madigan’s motion to block state employee pay.  At 7:30 PM on Thursday night, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion in St. Clair County Circuit Court to stop state employee pay by the end of February. House Republicans were disappointed by her action and questioned the timing since a bipartisan solution is currently being negotiated.

“The timing of the Attorney General’s action is questionable in light of the current attempts to resolve the budget impasse. This decision clearly undermines the legislature’s duty to negotiate a bipartisan solution.”

Rep. Avery Bourne
“The recent court filing from Attorney General Lisa Madigan can only be described as putting politics over people. This politically-motivated action is the same kind of Chicago-style politics that the Madigans too often employ. At a meeting I attended just this morning, a comment was made that, ‘as soon as deals in Illinois are close to done, someone always tries to blow it up.’ While the Senate has been negotiating and making progress towards a bipartisan budget deal, Madigan chose to instead disrupt state employee pay in an attempt to force a shutdown of state government, crippling vital government services and endangering families who rely on them. Attorney General Lisa Madigan should immediately denounce these hardball political tactics and stand with state employees and those who rely on state services.”

Rep. Terri Bryant
"This interference by yet another Constitutional officer in the budget process is blatantly political and seeks to unnecessarily blow-up ongoing negotiations," Bryant said. "The Senate went home this week following committee hearings on a possible budget deal to hear from their constituents. Pieces are starting to move to get to a compromise and a balanced budget. So, the timing of the Attorney General's attempt to stop state employee paychecks is as dangerous as it is puzzling."

Rep. Tim Butler
"This late-night move by the Attorney General is unconscionable.  She has put tens of thousands of hard-working state employees and their families at risk by advocating in court that they not be paid for the work they perform.  In the midst of ongoing, bipartisan negotiations in the State Senate to resolve this budget impasse, the Attorney General has decided to create chaos, instead of trying to support a compromise that is potentially in the works. I call on Attorney General Madigan to rescind her motion filed tonight"

 Rep. Sara Jimenez
“In the midst of an unprecedented budget crisis, our state employees have continued to perform their work every day and have provided services to the people of Illinois while facing tremendous pressure and uncertainty. I am thankful that every state employee has continued to receive a paycheck throughout this impasse. It is extremely disappointing to hear that Attorney General Lisa Madigan is attempting to block state employee pay until a budget is finalized. We have seen tremendous progress in the last couple of weeks towards hopefully ending this stalemate. I am calling upon Attorney General Madigan to drop her efforts to block state employee pay and allow the members of the General Assembly to finish the work that the Senate has begun and negotiate a balanced budget that will get our state back on the right path."

General Assembly – House Rules
·         Illinois House Democrats adopt Madigan Rules.  The new House Rules governing the 100th General Assembly were written by the office of Speaker Michael J. Madigan, and were adopted by a House majority that closely followed partisan lines. House Republicans expressed strong disappointment that the majority party had once again refused to consider bipartisan proposals to ensure equal representation for all residents of Illinois.  Each Illinois House district contains more than 100,000 residents, but the new Rules of the House contain a wide variety of provisions intended to enhance the ability of Speaker Madigan to maintain complete control of the House.  

How undemocratic are some of the Speaker’s Rules? Here are several examples:
·         Gives total control over legislation to the five-member House Rules Committee, “The Ultimate Gatekeeper”, comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans, with the Democrats being appointed by the Speaker on the basis of their complete fealty to him. The Rules Committee decides which legislation is allowed to be considered, and which bills are left to die without even a hearing.
·         Current House Rules provide for only One-Hour Advance, Public Notice Prior to House Action on legislation.
·         Current House Rules give the Speaker complete control of the daily agenda of the House Calendar.

In contrast to Speaker Madigan’s Rules, House Republicans advocated for common-sense reforms to the House Rules that would open up the legislative process to be more truly inclusive, collaborative and democratic.  House Republicans jointly sponsored HR 47, an alternative Rules proposal meant to be bipartisan in its operation.  For example, the proposed Rule 18(g) would have reduced the role of the currently all-powerful House Rules Committee by allowing members’ bills to be discharged from the Rules Committee by motion from the House floor and the affirmative vote of 71 members.  This rule, if it had been adopted, would have given all House members recourse to have their bills heard and debated by their colleagues.

Rep. Steve Andersson, the new House Republican floor leader, penned an opinion piece recently to discuss Madigan’s Rules and the House Republicans’ alternative Rules proposal.  Andersson’s op-ed stated in part:

At a recent meeting, one of my colleagues took the chance to apologize to the rest of the House Republican Caucus by saying: "I am sorry. Most of you have no idea what it is like to truly be a state representative, because every two years more of your rights and responsibilities are stripped away by the speaker's House Rules."

We are supposed to be a representative democracy, where all Illinois residents from every House district are represented equally. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Every two years, the people of Illinois elect representatives from 118 districts across the state to serve as their voice in Springfield. Once sworn in, these representatives have the opportunity to take two important votes.

The first is to elect a speaker of the House, which typically goes to the leader of the majority party.

The second important vote, which occurs two or three weeks later, is to adopt a set of procedural rules to govern the House for the subsequent two years.

For 32 of the last 34 years, those rules have been drafted in a manner that consolidates control with one individual - Speaker Michael Madigan - allowing him to circumvent our representative democracy and make the House subject to the power of one. Read Rep. Andersson's opinion-piece in its entirety in SJ-R.

Environment – Clean Water
·         Governor signs legislation to improve protection of public water supplies from the danger of pipe corrosionHB 3303 was signed into law on Friday, January 20.  The new measure concentrates on public-water-supply questions raised nationwide by the current crisis in Flint, Michigan.  When Flint public water supplies were modified in April 2014 to make the water more corrosive, the changed water chemistry helped create a serious increase in the amount of poisonous lead that was dissolved out of old-fashioned plumbing pipes and fittings within the affected city. 

Under Illinois’ new law, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has been ordered to adopt new administrative rules to govern Illinois public water supplies.  These rules will direct water operators to follow nationwide state-of-the-art corrosion prevention industry standards to protect public water supplies.  The rules will also direct key workers to have enrolled in nationally certified apprenticeship training programs in infrastructure corrosion prevention. 

Chemical corrosion also affects road bridges and shortens their lifespans.  The new law also applies to the Department of Transportation (IDOT), and requires IDOT to adopt rules and policies to focus on the prevention of future corrosion events when its contractors build and repair road bridges.  After House approval by a vote of 109-0-0, the bipartisan measure was signed into law as P.A. 99-923.

Health Care – Drug Interactions
·         Governor Rauner unveils plan to toughen required at-the-counter drug counseling.  The Rauner plan and associated administrative rules changes will be imposed at the retail pharmacy level.  Under law, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must be licensed.  The plan will impose new requirements upon pharmacy professionals and their licenses.  A key component of the new plan will apply whenever a patient buys a medication for the first time or when he or she presents a change in the prescription.  The patient will be required to hear counsel about risky drug combinations and other potential health issues associated with the new chemical substance they are preparing to use.

Under current law, patients are allowed to opt out of drug counseling at the pharmacy counter, and many patients do so.  Pharmacists and pharmacists’ assistants are required to offer counseling from a licensed pharmacist, but many patients decline counseling.  Under the Rauner plan, this opt-out will no longer be possible.  Patients who are buying a new drug that possesses potentially harmful interactions will be required to learn about some of the potential negative side effects of the medication.  These warnings may concentrate with special force on side effects that appear when a drug is taken with another drug; in some cases, two safe drugs can come together to generate one lethal combination.        

The Rauner plan was developed on an accelerated basis.  It follows a December 2016 Chicago Tribune investigation into potential lethal drug interactions in Illinois, and the perceived failure of the “opt out” law to generate needed counseling for Illinois residents.  

Health Care – Influenza
·         Illinois Department of Public Health shares flu tips as yearly outbreak affects state.  The suggestions coincide with the annual peak season for flu transmission, which coincides with the winter months from December until February.  “It is not too late to get a flu shot,” encourages IDPH Director Dr. Nirav Shah. 

Influenza and other acute respiratory illnesses can be serious threats to other patients with health conditions.  For example, current guidelines suggest that visitors with acute respiratory illness not visit patients in hospitals.  Guidelines like these are suggestions made by IDPH to Illinois hospitals, many of which adopt policies in line with the recommendations.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains overall prevention strategies for healthcare professionals to follow in dealing with seasonal influenza.   

Jobs – December 2016 Report
·         Unemployment rate rises to 5.7% in December 2016.  The final Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) jobless report for calendar year 2016 contained more bad news for the Illinois economy.  The most widely-tracked measurement of Illinois joblessness, reflecting persons completely out of work and actively searching for employment, tracked upward from 5.6% in November 2016 to 5.7% in December.  The increase in unemployment was paced by an overall shrinkage of 16,700 in Illinois nonfarm payroll jobs in the final month of 2016.

There are currently 6,002,600 nonfarm jobs in Illinois – almost one job for every two Illinoisans.  Illinois continues to support more jobs than any other state in the U.S. Midwest.  However, well more than 300,000 Illinois residents who would like to work are reporting that they cannot find employment of any kind.  Furthermore, more than four-fifths of total Illinois jobs, and virtually all of the new jobs being created, are in the service sector.  Only 782,500 nonfarm Illinois jobs – about 13% of the total – are made up of the production or extraction of tangible goods.  Examples of production or extraction include the manufacturing of factory goods, the construction of real estate, and the mining of minerals. 

Business leaders, such as the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association’s Greg Baise, are describing Illinois’ subpar atmosphere for the creation of manufacturing jobs when compared with other Midwestern states.  He said nearby states have been surpassing Illinois with manufacturing plants and jobs over the last seven years. Wisconsin created 41,300 manufacturing jobs, while Ohio created 76,700, Indiana created 90,800, and Michigan created 163,700 jobs. In contrast, Illinois lost 1,600 manufacturing jobs.

Outdoor Sports – Deer Harvest
·         Illinois Department of Natural Resources figures confirm low deer harvest in 2016-17 season.  After counting tags and reports, IDNR reports that 144,150 deer were taken by Illinois sportsmen in the 2016-17 hunting season.  These tag numbers are down 7% from the 155,229 deer harvested in 2015-16, and they represent a decline of more than 28% from the peak harvest year of 2005 when 201,209 deer were taken.  As in previous years, counties in western Illinois topped the tag list, with Fulton County’s harvest being the largest in Illinois.  Hunters took 4,014 deer in Fulton County, located southwest of Peoria.          

Taxes – Tax Preparation
·         Illinois offers free tax preparation for low-income residents.  The service for the 2016 tax filing season, to be offered by tax assistance centers across Illinois in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), is targeted towards families with incomes up to $55,000 and individuals with incomes up to $30,000.  The service offices will help Illinois residents fill out and sign their forms in advance of the tax filing deadline of April 18, 2017, but eligible Illinois residents are urged to come in as soon as possible.

People whose incomes make them potentially eligible for this benefit can find the tax assistance centers that offer this free service.  They should visit this website and enter their zip code to find a center close to where they live.  This service is being targeted towards individuals and households that are potentially eligible for federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs). 

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