Rep. Wheeler's Weekly Roundup: January 11


GENERAL ASSEMBLY
·        Inauguration of 101st General Assembly.  The new session of the state legislature will be the first group of lawmakers to meet in Illinois’ third century.  The House elected Jim Durkin as House Republican Leader, and the majority chose Michael J. Madigan to be the returning Speaker of the House.  In his remarks to the newly-convened House, Leader Durkin pledged to uphold Republican principles and to work together with newly-elected Gov. J.B. Pritzker whenever possible for the good of the State of Illinois. 

The newly-convened 101st General Assembly faces challenging problems of governance, including Illinois’ structural budget deficit, underfunded tax-supported pension systems, and a growing pattern of out-migration to other states by young, ambitious adults eager for success in the private sector.  House Republicans are determined to make Illinois a good place for hard-working people to live and raise families.

·        Freshmen legislators sworn into the 101st General Assembly.  On Wednesday, 13 House Republican lawmakers took the oath of office and joined the ranks of the freshman class of the 101st General Assembly.

We are proud to introduce the
new members of the House Republican Caucus.

·        Rep. Reick appointed to serve on bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.  House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has announced the appointment of State Representative Steve Reick to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), a bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislative oversight committee.

“State government regulations impact every aspect of the lives of Illinoisans, so it’s an honor to be selected to serve on this important oversight committee,” said Reick, a second-term lawmaker from McHenry County. “We need to ensure that our regulatory environment in Illinois helps small businesses create jobs and reduces government burdens on working families. I appreciate Leader Durkin’s faith in my ability to contribute to this important work, and I look forward to this new role.”

The members of JCAR oversee the rule-making process by state agencies, making sure the rules abide by the original intent of legislators when laws are passed. The committee is composed of 12 legislators who are appointed by the legislative leadership, with the membership apportioned equally between the two houses and the two political parties. It is co-chaired by two members representing each party and each legislative house. The members of JCAR are also charged with making sure the General Assembly is adequately informed of how laws are implemented through agency rulemaking and facilitating a public understanding of rules and regulations.

BUDGET
·        December revenues up modestly.  During the first part of FY19, the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2018, revenues increased and Illinois was able to begin to chip away at the more than $7 billion in unpaid bills that burden Illinois health care providers and other creditors.  This revenue growth curve flattened in December 2018 as existing taxes ceased to yield major net new revenue.  Personal income tax payments to the State in December 2018, $1,577 million, exceeded the year-earlier figure by only $7 million, an annual growth rate of 0.4%.  The flattened growth curve indicates the consequences of the failure of Illinois’ economy to generate a significant number of net new jobs.  While other states such as Florida and Texas are creating large numbers of new jobs, Illinois is not doing so.

These and other revenue numbers can be found in the monthly report generated for December 2018 by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the General Assembly’s nonpartisan budget monitoring office.  CGFA was able to track significant growth in several smaller revenue lines.  Sales tax revenues rose by $60 million in December 2018 relative to one year earlier, buoyed by Christmas sales and the newly-granted ability of the State to impose sales taxes on many purchases made online.  Income from federal sources, which includes matching grants made by Washington to Illinois for payment to Medicaid care providers and other contractors, rose by $89 million.  Current news events in Washington raise questions about whether this healthy increase can be sustained in January 2019.  The Illinois General Assembly, working though the professionals at CGFA, will have to closely monitor revenue trends in the second half of FY19 in order to begin the work of putting together a new budget for FY20.  This will be among the legislature’s top priorities in the 2019 spring session.

ENVIRONMENT
·        Illinois Underground Natural Gas Storage Safety Act becomes law.  A new law, SB 3549, sharply increases regulatory controls over underground aquifers and nearby geological strata used to store natural gas.  The storage facilities serve as gigantic batteries that can be used to generate electricity on demand.  A sharp movement in Illinois power generation, from coal-fired electricity to power generated from natural gas, has led to the construction and expansion of these facilities within state lines.

Under the bill, signed into law as P.A. 100-1172, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (which regulates underground caves and mines) and the Illinois Commerce Commission (which regulates electricity and gas) will work with the U.S. Department of Transportation to ensure that all underground gas storage facilities in Illinois meet federal minimum safety standards.  This will help protect aquifers and sources of groundwater used by hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans.  The new measure was signed into law on Friday, January 4.

STATE GOVERNMENT
·        New laws for 2019.  Immediately upon ringing in the New Year, 253 new laws will become effective in 2019 that have wide raging impact. Here are few of those laws Illinois families should know about:
o   Children under the age of 2 years old must be restrained in rear facing car seats unless they weigh 40 or more pounds or are 40 or more inches tall. (PA100-0672)
o   Every Illinois school will be required to conduct at least one law-enforcement led active shooter drill a year. School safety drills must be conducted within 90 days of the start of the school year. (PA100-0996)
o   Nursing mothers upon request will be exempt from jury duty. (PA100-0696)
o   Stalking laws expanded to include messages sent through social media. Additionally, businesses, places of worship and schools can seek restraining orders against stalkers.
o   The Lyme Disease Prevention and Protection Act was enacted opening the door in Illinois for new treatments for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. (PA100-1137)
o   All children in kindergarten and the second, sixth, and ninth grades of any public, private or parochial school shall have a dental examination. (PA100-829)

TRANSPORTATION
·        Old 100th General Assembly convenes for final days of session activity; passes Tollway bill.  The “lame-duck” session met earlier this week prior to the inauguration of the new 101st General Assembly.  The House passed a bill to create a changeover in the membership of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, the often-controversial board with executive responsibility over the toll roads of northern Illinois.  SB 1298 will end the terms of the nine members of the Toll Highway Authority, allowing the new Governor J.B. Pritzker to make appointments to fill the vacancies. 

The new Tollway Board could take steps to reduce the level of patronage hiring and contracting associated with the operations of the Authority.  A newspaper investigation has uncovered cases of contracts being awarded to firms linked with Toll Highway executives.  It is expected that some, but not all, of the members of the departing board could be reappointed.  No more than five of the nine members may be from either political party.

BICENTENNIAL
·        First General Assembly met 200 years ago.  Illinois was admitted to the Union in December 1818.  After President James Monroe signed the papers, the U.S. flag had its 21st star and the new state faced serious challenges.  The State of Illinois, operating under the social customs of the day, did not try at first to exercise governance over the Native Americans who made up most of the people living in the new state.  The state’s effective jurisdiction was confined the a few thousand frontier-dwellers, mostly farmers, who were breaking the sod and planting crops on narrow strips of land along the Ohio and Lower Mississippi Rivers.  The new state chose one of the towns along the Lower Mississippi, Kaskaskia, to be Illinois’ first capital. 

The first General Assembly had the duty of passing a law code for the fledgling state.  The state’s entire law code could fit into one small book (today’s “Illinois Compiled Statutes,” by contrast, are printed in ten large-sized volumes of more than 2,000 pages each).  The pioneer legislators could not afford to build a capitol building in Kaskaskia, and rented two meeting rooms from the frontier town doctor.  The young legislature had a House and a Senate, just as the General Assembly has today.        

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