In spite of the budget gridlock in Springfield this year, 237 new laws are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2016 including: 


Long-Term Care Facility Electronic Recording (P.A. 99-0430, HB2462)Allows for residents of long term care facilities to use an audio or video surveillance system in his or her room at the resident’s expense.

Elimination of Some Mandatory Sentences (P.A. 99-0069, HB 2471)
Eliminates mandatory sentences of life imprisonment for offenders convicted of crimes committed before the offender turns 18. Also allows courts to use discretion in declining to impose sentencing enhancement based upon the involvement of a firearm in the crime.


Right to Try (P.A. 99-0270, HB 1335)Gives terminally ill patients access to medicines that have passed Phase 1 of the FDA approval process but are not yet on pharmacy shelves.  Allows doctors to prescribe to terminally ill patients medicines currently being used in clinical trials.

Read the full list of new laws taking effect here.
The statewide jobless rate has risen to 5.7%.  The increase in November 2015 was a hike of 0.3% from the 5.4% rate measured for the month of October.  Illinois’ production of new jobs ground almost to a halt in the most recently-reported month, with only 400 net new nonfarm jobs created in November.  The new numbers were published by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) on Thursday, December 17. 

IDES found that the weakest section of Illinois’ job environment once again continued to be manufacturing.  The factory sector paid 12,800 fewer Illinois workers in November 2015 than had received paychecks in November 2014.  By contrast, increases were reported over the same period in many sectors of secondary and tertiary services; these segments are classified by IDES as professional services, business services, educational services, and health-care services.  

Illinois’ jobless rate continues to be higher than the national unemployment rate, as well as the jobless rates reported by many of our neighboring states. The national unemployment rate was 5.0% in November 2015.

Historically, fans of the sport of harness racing – a track-based racing event in which trotting horses circle a small track while pulling a sulky and driver – could go to two separate Chicago-area racing ovals, at west-suburban Maywood and south-suburban Balmoral, to watch harness races.  However, there has been a steady decline in Illinois harness race attendance and wagering activities in recent years.  Both Balmoral and Maywood operated as debtors-in-possession in 2015 as part of a combine that has entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  The tracks have, however, continued to post numbers that have led its regulatory body, the Illinois Racing Board, to take action earlier this year to withdraw licensed racing dates from the two courses for 2016.

The lack of approved racing dates will prevent the two tracks from operating next year, and many Illinois horse observers believe there will not be a return to economic conditions at any time in the near future that will allow them to operate.  Plans have been approved to run a 2016 harness racing schedule on a track that will operate as part of the traditionally-thoroughbred-oriented Hawthorne race course west of Chicago.  As part of the Balmoral/Maywood shutdown process, the racetracks have announced plans to lay off 81 of their remaining workers in the coming months.  The racetrack layoffs, announced as part of the November 2015 cycle of job notices required under the Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, were announced on Wednesday, December 9. House Amendment #1 (Representative Thaddeus Jones) to HB 2663 contains language intended to try to save operations at Balmoral and Maywood.  This legislation would reverse the decision of the Illinois Racing Board and grant 2016 racing dates to the two threatened racetracks.  The House Revenue and Finance Committee held a hearing on HB 2663 in Chicago on Thursday, December 10.
State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) convened her business advisory council for the second time this year on Tuesday. The council is composed of small business owners from throughout the district. Representative McDermed gave an update on the budget impasse and the latest business legislation from Springfield including reforms to unemployment insurance. The council provided feedback on legislation and gave ideas for how to make the state and the district more business friendly. 

If you'd like to join the small business advisory council, call the office at (815) 277-2079. 
Hanukkah started this weekend, happy holidays to all!

Leaders Meeting
       Last Tuesday the Governor and four legislative leaders met for a highly anticipated meeting. After opening statements to the public, the rest of the meeting was private and lasted less than an hour. Both sides blamed the other for the current budget impasse. Governor Rauner, in another attempt to be conciliatory, further narrowed the structural changes he would like to see before raising taxes to independent map reform, term limits, and a property tax freeze coupled with local control of costs that are currently mandated by the state (i.e. giving communities the choice to keep prevailing wage or not). The meeting produced little other than an agreement to meet again this week with staff present. Meanwhile, the Comptroller was forced to delay the November pension payment and the state is careening towards an $8.5 billion anticipated bill backlog at the end of December.
        Pennsylvania, the only other state in the nation that also doesn’t yet have a budget, appears close to a deal. While the specific facts of their impasse are certainly different, interestingly enough the state faces a similar governmental divide to Illinois; a Democrat Governor and a Republican statehouse.
With the holiday season in full swing, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and local emergency management agencies are offering tips to help people stay safe now and into the new year.

“December can be a fun but hectic time of year,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “Throughout the month, we’ll be offering tips to help people stay safe, as well as provide ideas on gifts that can help friends and family stay safe during all types of emergencies.”

Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has signed on to co-sponsor House Resolution 889, filed today by State Representative David McSweeney (R-Cary). The resolution states the House’s opposition to any additional taxes on advertising or advertising-related services. It further states the belief that Illinois' present fiscal crisis must be managed in other ways besides a new tax on business owners throughout the State.

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, its time for ‪#‎GivingTuesday‬ and ‪#‎ILGive‬. #ILGive is a statewide, non-partisan movement to support nonprofit communities in Illinois by increasing individual giving. Last year, they raised over $4 million dollars. This year, over 500 organizations, individuals, and foundations from all over the state have joined the movement to provide creative ways for people in Illinois to give. 

For more information and a list of participating Illinois nonprofits, click here.
It was a busy week down in Springfield last week for session. The House is next in session on December 2nd and the Senate is not scheduled to meet again this year. 

House Action
        The House had several important votes take place. As part of the emergency measures put in place when the fiscal year began without a budget, the governor set new rules for the state childcare program. This past week, through bipartisan compromise, Governor Rauner agreed to reverse or review the majority of those changes. Additionally, the governor’s office said that it will establish a bipartisan, bicameral task force aimed at ensuring the long-term stability of the program. House Democrats still ran an override vote on Senate Bill 570, a bill which would have reversed the governor’s changes completely and stripped the Governor of the ability to act in a fiscal emergency to preserve funding for the program. The bill failed to reach the necessary super majority needed to override a veto.
         Another bipartisan agreement had been reached before the House met with regards to House Bill 2482 and the DON score. The Rauner administration recently withdrew its plans to raise the DON score, which requires federal approval. Illinois is the last state to still use the DON score as a method of determining whether someone qualifies for services through state home or community care, but we are in the process of transferring to an updated assessment tool. HB2482 would have locked in to statute a DON score of 29 and a provision that would allow qualifying individuals to be eligible for both institutional and home and community-based long term care services, thus driving up costs and eliminating the possibility for cost efficiency. In his amendatory veto, the governor changed an “and” to an “or”, which meant that qualified program recipients could receive either community or institution based care, but not both. Despite having reached a bipartisan compromise on the DON score and acceptance of his amendatory veto from related state programs and groups, Speaker Madigan scheduled a vote to override the governor. The amendatory veto override, like that of SB570, failed to gain the necessary votes. The bills pushed ahead by the speaker, even though compromise was reached would have stripped the governor’s office of flexibility in administering state programs.
Governor Bruce Rauner has issued the following statement regarding Illinois’ acceptance of Syrian refugees after the terror attacks in Paris:

“Our nation and our state have a shared history of providing safe haven for those displaced by conflict, but the news surrounding the Paris terror attacks reminds us of the all-too-real security threats facing America. We must find a way to balance our tradition as a state welcoming of refugees while ensuring the safety and security of our citizens. Therefore, the state of Illinois will temporarily suspend accepting new Syrian refugees and consider all of our legal options pending a full review of our country’s acceptance and security processes by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
Residents of the 37th district wishing to turn in an old US flag for proper disposal may bring their used flag to the district office of State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena).

In honor of Veterans Day, Rep McDermed is also sponsoring a flag exchange to allow veterans to obtain a new flag to fly at their home or business, while supplies last. Area residents may bring their flags in for proper disposal, while veterans may receive a new flag even if they do not have one to exchange. The program is free of charge and provided at no cost to taxpayers. 

Rep. McDermed’s District Office is located at 11032 W Lincoln Hwy in Frankfort and is open from 9 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday. The office is not open for Veteran's Day. For further details, call 815-277-2079.
Governor Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders are set to meet on November 18th. We are in our 5th month without a budget and yet this is the first meeting between the state leaders in months.

That is not to say that efforts haven’t been made towards solutions. State Representative Franks (D-Woodstock) has proposed a two year budget to give much-needed stability to health and human service providers, taxpayers, and job creators alike. Representative Batinick (R-Plainfield) has proposed a series of hearings on how the State could potentially approach a lump sum pension or partial pension exchange option as a method to ease the pension crisis. Both of these proposals have yet to receive consideration by the House, remaining bottled up by Speaker Madigan. On the House floor, I’ve appealed for a bi-partisan approach to evaluate each program’s funding as a part of a larger process of setting spending priorities. However, bi-partisan efforts from the rank and file to move the ball forward have thus far been stymied.

I would welcome an opportunity to debate every proposed solution to the state’s budget challenges on the House floor or in committee in an open and honest fashion. The House is back in session on November 10th, but if it’s anything like the past several months, no meaningful solutions will be considered or serious negotiations held on reforms to resolve this impasse.

I’m hopeful that the leaders’ meeting with the Governor on November 18th will jump start much-needed discussions on setting budget priorities and business reforms, which will ultimately help expand our tax base. I am optimistic because the rank and file members of the General Assembly on both sides of the aisle realize this, and real solutions have been put forward. I’m hopeful that all parties involved will make a bi-partisan balanced budget our shared priority.

However, I’m wary because in spite of the sincere attempts at finding common ground among legislators on both sides of the aisle and all of the concessions made by Governor Rauner toward reaching compromise, Speaker Madigan remains unmoved.

For the sake of a productive meeting, restoring opportunity and growth to Illinois, and taking vulnerable children and families out of the political crossfire in Springfield, I’m calling on Speaker Madigan to come to the table on November 18th in a true spirit of compromise.

Margo McDermed
State Representative 37th District
Springfield, IL…. Responding to outcry from her constituents regarding the financial situation in the Lincoln-Way School District and the decision to close a high school, Representative McDermed has filed several school district oversight bills. In addition to filing House Resolution 808 asking the Illinois Auditor General to conduct an audit of the Lincoln-Way High School District 210 Board of Education, Representative McDermed has now filed House Bills 4309 and 4322.

House Bill 4309 creates an Inspector General position at the Illinois State Board of Education. The Inspector General at ISBE will have the authority to conduct investigations into allegations of, or incidents of, waste, fraud, and financial mismanagement in public education by a school district or its school board or by an employee, contractor, or member of the school board. The position will be appointed by ISBE, but the office will remain independent of the state board.

“In speaking with my constituents I heard a lot of concern that, other than waiting years for the next election, there is little remedy for constituents when possible mismanagement or abuse happens at the school board level” Rep McDermed said. “The state has an inspector general to guarantee that there is accountability in state agencies, it’s time we brought that same accountability to those we entrust with our children’s education.”

House Bill 4322 would impact the process by which school closures occur. School boards would need to appoint a district advisory committee to advise and make recommendations to the school board before they make any decisions on whether a school closes. The bill also outlines the different information that the committee must gather including enrollment projections, capacity and conditions of the district schools, per-student operating costs at each school, and the different programs offered among the schools.

“Many of my constituents had questions as to how a school board goes about making the decision to close a school and what factors are considered” Rep McDermed said. “There are few standards and regulations currently in practice when it comes to the closure process and this is a way to insure that school boards are taking into account all angles of the situation. We need to make certain that careful consideration is given to these big decisions and that there is enough transparency in the process.”

The Chicago School District and the Chicago Board of Education would be exempt from House Bill 4322 and the authority of ISBE’s Inspector General as a similar position already exists specifically for CPS.


Illinois’ New Auditor General
         Unfortunately, not much happened regarding the legislative impasse when the House and Senate met for the first time in almost a month last Tuesday. However, both chambers did approve of the bipartisan Audit Commission’s recommendation to make State Representative Frank Mautino of Spring Valley the next Auditor General. William Holland, who has been the state’s auditor for over 20 years, is retiring at the end of this year. The commission accepted applications from around the country and chose from candidates with a variety of backgrounds.
         I voted against this appointment. While I think that Rep Mautino is a good person and a good legislator, I think we should have looked outside Illinois State Government to fill the position. Illinois is a countrywide punchline when it comes to corruption and mismanagement of state funds. I think the position would have benefited from an outside and assuredly unbiased eye. I wish the best of luck to Rep Mautino as he fills the big shoes of Bill Holland who served the state with great character.

Education Bills Filed
         After holding a town hall to hear the concerns of constituents about the Lincoln Way School district’s financial situation and the closing of Lincoln Way North, I filed a few bills that will hopefully help put some transparency in the school closing process and can help monitor school board activity.
         House Bill 4309 creates an Inspector General position at the Illinois State Board of Education. The Inspector General at ISBE will have the authority to conduct investigations into allegations of, or incidents of, waste, fraud, and financial mismanagement in public education by a school district or its school board or by an employee, contractor, or member of the school board. The position will be appointed by ISBE, but the office will remain independent of the state board.
         House Bill 4322 would impact the process by which school closures occur. School boards would need to appoint a district advisory committee to advise and make recommendations to the school board before they make any decisions on whether a school closes. The bill also outlines the different information that the committee must gather including enrollment projections, capacity and conditions of the district schools, per-student operating costs at each school, and the different programs offered among the schools.

Principal For a Day
mokena_elementary.jpg         Mokena Elementary bestowed upon me the honor of being principal for a day last week. Being Principal for a day was eye opening. I visited several classrooms, read to kindergartners, and took questions from some of the kids. I was pleased they were not shy and asked interesting questions. They had a pretty good idea about state government and the 3rd graders all knew the capitol and many had been there. TI admired all the hard work the teachers put in and the great spirit at Mokena Elementary.

Senior Fair
          Thank you to all the service providers who took part in my senior fair on October 15th and thank you to all the seniors who attended! I thought it was very successful. I hope it was informative and plan to do it again next year.
Rep McDermed reading to Kindergartners 
State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) was made principal for a day on Monday at Mokena Elementary School. 
Rep McDermed takes questions from eager 2nd graders


Scores of seniors perused tables at the senior fair hosted Thursday by State Representative McDermed. The first of this soon to be annual event was held at The Oaks in the Mokena Park district and featured vendors representing services and products related to the elderly.
NEW LENOX – A state representative has filed legislation asking the Illinois Auditor General to conduct a performance audit that would include a review of state funds at Lincoln-Way High School District 210.

...

After McDermed held a town hall meeting specifically for Lincoln-Way residents, she decided to file a resolution seeking an audit from Illinois Auditor General William Holland. Residents at the meeting said they were upset at district officials for their lack of transparency and financial accountability.

“One of the things that came out of the town hall was a request from folks to ask the Illinois Auditor General to do [an audit],” McDermed said.

Read more from The Herald News
Mokena, IL…. State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) announces her 2015 Senior Fair on Thursday October 15th at the Oaks in the Mokena Park District, 10925 W La Porte Rd from 10am – 12noon.  The fair is free and open to the public.

“I encourage senior citizens in the 37th House District to come to the fair and learn about the businesses, doctors, and non-for-profits that work to improve their lives,” said Rep McDermed. 

The fair will feature state and local providers of services to seniors that can help improve wellness and make life more enjoyable. Some free health screenings will be available. In addition staff from the General Assembly and state agencies will be able to assist constituents with state government concerns. 
Springfield, IL…. State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has filed House Bill 4297, colloquially known in other states as the ‘Beagle Freedom Bill’.

According to the Beagle Freedom Project, beagles are the most popular breed for lab use because of their friendly, docile, trusting, forgiving, people-pleasing personalities. The research industry says they adapt well to living in a cage and are inexpensive to feed.

HB 4297 would create the Research Dogs and Cats Adoption Act. It would require state funded higher education institutions or research facilities associated with state higher education institutions to offer dogs and cats used in their research efforts to animal rescue organizations for adoption before considering euthanasia.

 “A good family friend of mine has a rescue beagle named Frances and she brought this issue to my attention.” Rep. McDermed said. “I want to help make sure these animals get the second chance they deserve. Many research labs already make the attempt to find homes for these animals, but it needs to be the practice throughout the state.”

A similar bill died in the last legislative session over concerns by the University of Illinois’ agriculture department. Rep. McDermed took the issues raised by U of I and compromised by making reasonable exceptions to the adoption mandate while maintaining the primary intent of helping these animals find good homes after a hard life.

Read more about the bill here

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced recently that, as a result of the budget impasse, his office will suspend mailing out vehicle registration renewal reminders to the public.

In a press release making the announcement, White noted that suspending this service will save approximately $450,000 per month. It will allow his office to prolong the ability to mail vehicle registration renewal stickers, titles and license plates to vehicle owners for a few months longer before the postage account is depleted.

If you want to receive a reminder, sign up to receive electronic notices through the Secretary of State’s website. While those who receive emailed vehicle registration renewal notices via email will continue to have access to a pin number needed to renew their sticker online, those who do not sign up for the electronic alerts will now have to renew their vehicle stickers in person at a Secretary of State office.
The House was in session last week, but little movement was made on the substantial issues. Speaker Madigan informed the chamber that the next session dates will be October 20th and November 10th.

In Memoriam
         State Representative Esther Golar passed away last Monday. Many members shared fond memories of her on the House floor while we were in session on Thursday. She was praised for being passionate, kind, and for continuing to attend session despite her declining health. The House adopted HR 785 as a memorial resolution and expression of mourning for her death.

Lincoln Way
        Last night I had a townhall to listen to the concerns of many parents about the management of the Lincoln Way School District and the closing of Lincoln Way North. As I’ve said before, the power to open/close a school and to budget for the district belongs exclusively to school boards and the state has little, if any, say in the matter. Still, I’m happy we had this forum to discuss what happened, school board oversight, and what I as a state legislator might be able to propose to prevent future situations like this moving forward.

Early Intervention
          Comptroller Leslie Munger announced that DHS and her office, concerned about early intervention programs slipping through the cracks without a budget in place, determined that Early Intervention services were covered by recent judicial consent decrees and immediately began setting up the processes for making payments to providers. As I’ve mentioned before, significant portions of the state spending is being doled out despite the state not having a formal budget in place. However, Early Intervention providers, who work on development strategies with disabled infants and toddlers, were the latest group in a growing list of organizations to be penalized by the ramifications of the budget impasse that were not yet covered.

Beagle Bill
          I filed a bill last week, HB 4297, which would create the Research Dogs and Cats Adoption Act. It would require state funded higher education institutions or research facilities associated with state higher education institutions to offer dogs and cats used in their research efforts to animal rescue organizations for adoption before considering euthanasia. Similar bills in other states have been known as the ‘Beagle Freedom Bill’ because Beagles are commonly used research dogs. A good friend of mine has one of these rescue Beagles and she encouraged me to take up this cause.

Final Pizza Townhall
mcdermed_pizza.jpg
          I’ve enjoyed speaking with many constituents over the last few weeks about the issues in Springfield and in the district. If you haven’t been able to make one yet, please consider joining me this Sunday, October 4th at 6pm in New Lenox for my final pizza townhall. We will be at Chicago Dough Company at 1080 E Lincoln Hwy.

Budget Still at an Impasse
          The House session last week did not show any signs of progress on the budget. Negotiations and reasonable bills to grow the state, reform bills, gaming bills, or bills to apply new fees and taxes aren’t getting any traction. Only bills to increase spending beyond anticipated revenue receive committee hearings and floor debate. On Thursday, Democrats on the House Executive Committee passed a $3.8 billion spending bill, SB2046, without specifying a funding source for the money to pay for it. The full House did not take up SB 2046 for debate last week, and did not discuss an overall spending plan or budget agreement. Instead there was another Committee of the Whole to discuss the need for mental health programs and police training.
          The House is not in session again until October 20th and conversations between our state leaders have stopped. We need to break the deadlock and the best way to do so is to contact legislative leaders who decide the calendar and the governor. I recently wrote a letter to the editor encouraging citizens to speak up; you can read it here.

PARCC
         The 2014-15 school year was the first school year of attempted full implementation of the PARCC testing system throughout Illinois, a test that utilizes the Common Core standards. Last week, State Superintendent, Tony Smith, released some figures on the results, many of which are “raw numbers” at this point that have not yet been sorted by individual school or rebalanced for social and demographic weighting factors. The numbers released also did not include tests taken by pen and paper, which was about 25% of test takers. The preliminary results show less than 4 in 10 Illinois students met or exceeded grade level expectations in Math and English.

State Employee Health Insurance
          CMS recently announced that without a budget, they lack the appropriations and legal authority to make payments to providers of state employee health insurance. The issue has just now come to a head because CMS was still paying claims from the last fiscal year. The first group of health insurance plans to be affected are self-insured plans often utilized by retirees. CMS stated that while health care payments for workers, retirees, and their families would be paid as long as possible, stoppage of payments would presumably cause a significant percentage of health care professionals to ask for alternate pathways of compensation, including asking employees to pay cash upfront for their healthcare.

Senior Fair
         On October 15th I will be holding a senior fair from 10am-Noon. Local and state senior service providers will be on hand to share tips, information, and services. The expo will be in the Mokena Park District at The Oaks, 10925 W. La Porte Rd in Mokena.
Comptroller, DHS agree EI services fall under active consent decree 

Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger announced Wednesday that her office is setting up accounts and will immediately begin making payments to Early Intervention providers as soon as it receives vouchers from the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Munger learned from her Nonprofit Advisory Council last week that Early Intervention services were "slipping through the cracks" of consent decrees requiring payments during the budget impasse, and she contacted DHS officials to discuss what payment options were available. After looking more closely at several active consent decrees, DHS and the Comptroller agreed that Early Intervention services were covered and they immediately began setting up the processes for making payments to providers.

Read more on the caucus blog.

To the editor,

We're in our third month now without a budget and many are speculating that there's a lack of compromise in sight. Despite this the majority of state government is still operating, with the Comptroller’s office estimating overspending by $300 million a month due to the continuation of appropriations through consent decrees, agreements and court orders.

Each week since adjournment I have traveled to Springfield ready to arrive at a solution, but given the top-heavy nature of our legislative system, that solution has yet to come.  In the House, legislation is prohibited from coming to the floor unless approved by the Democratic Speaker who holds a supermajority in the chamber.  A similar problem faces my colleagues in the Senate.

And while rank and file members such as myself have tried to impress upon our chamber’s leaders the urgency of the situation and the necessity that they negotiate with the Governor on his reform agenda, these calls have fallen on deaf ears. There continues to be an insistence by the Democrat majority in Illinois that unchecked spending should continue with absolutely no changes to the way Illinois operates.

There is no problem, they say, we just need more revenue. I believe the vast majority of Illinoisans recognize that this isn’t the case.  Illinois needs reform before new revenues should even be considered, and that is the sticking point.

If you agree that Illinois needs reform before taxes are increased, then get engaged. I have a petition on my website,www.repmcdermed.com, that you can sign. Write a letter to the editor. Tell your friends on social media that Illinois needs reform.

Our colleges, service providers and state vendors are stuck in a cycle of fiscal uncertainty. That’s not fair, but neither is asking taxpayers to pay more without fundamental changes to the way Illinois does business. This impasse needs to be solved quickly, but it must be done with an eye towards the future.

Margo McDermed
State Representative 37th District
New Lenox, IL... State Representative Margo McDermed spoke on Thursday with the New Lenox Chamber of Commerce. She gave a 'State of the State' update as a part of their luncheon series. She spoke about what's going on in Springfield and took questions from the crowd. 

Rep McDermed talked about the challenges of being a freshman representative and adjusting to political life. She said she discovered that there is a big difference between running on the issues and actually being in office. She said it has been a learning curve discovering all of the other parts the job entails, such as administrative duties. 

Rep McDermed was asked about the contentious environment down in Springfield. She explained that there are productive things being done in a bipartisan manner, leading to such omnibus reform minded bills addressing the heroin crisis and police reform. Things only get contentious when the debate turns to certain topics and the budget. However a number of good bipartisan bills that were passed this year are proof there's room to compromise and work together to solve the tougher issues.  
Chicago, IL... State Representative Margo McDermed took part in a press conference led by fellow Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) today. His proposal, House Resolution 752, urges Speaker Madigan and the Chairperson of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee to hold a series of hearings on how the state could potentially approach a lump sum exchange option with state retirees. This buyout option would be available to current and future annuitants and could potentially net the state billions in long term savings. Retirees would benefit by having more control over their retirement assets. 

The resolution calls for hearings to better understand the potential outcomes of such a pension exchange proposal and potential barriers to its implementation, as well as its constitutionality.

Rep. McDermed praised the merit of the idea as potentially a win-win situation for retirees and the state. She also said that the proposal deserves real consideration in the House.


Chicago, IL… Today Governor Rauner signed into law legislation which will include severance and settlement agreements that use public funds under the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. Representative McDermed’s House Bill 303 is a much needed win for government transparency.

Similar legislation, prompted as a response to the Metra scandal in 2013, previously stalled in the State Senate. A second scandalous six figure severance package that was awarded this past year to the outgoing president at the College of DuPage renewed calls for reform to such ‘golden parachutes’.
“This important piece of legislation has been a long time coming and is the culmination of years of hard work by both former Representative Kosel and myself. I want to thank Senator Althoff for all her work in helping get this bill through the Senate” Rep McDermed said. “This legislation will help us to make sure that we are shining a light on government spending and agreements entered in to by public bodies. The greater the transparency in government, the greater the accountability.”

House Bill 303 near unanimously sailed through both legislative chambers this past spring. 


Hope you ended your summer on a high note and had a lovely holiday weekend!

House Votes on Vetoes
        The House has passed 302 bills this year. Governor Rauner has thus far signed 267 while vetoing 21. He used his amendatory veto powers on another 10. An amendatory veto is when the governor sends the bill back to chamber from which it originated with a few recommended changes. That chamber can either accept the changes with a simple majority vote or attempt to override the veto which requires a 3/5ths vote.
       This past week, instead of considering the governor’s proposed changes, the House voted on overrides to the governor’s amendatory vetoes. Only one override was successful, House Bill 1. Governor Rauner used his amendatory veto on the Medicaid funding portion in the bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation to address the state heroin crisis. The Governor’s office argued that the State's Medicaid programs already cover multiple forms of medication necessary to treat alcohol and opioid dependence and the new changes in the proposed bill would limit the state's ability to contain rising costs at a time when the State is facing unprecedented fiscal difficulties. Opponents of his amendatory veto said that the Governor’s changes hurt the overall bill and that the biggest issue with heroin addiction is that people can’t afford treatment. The House overwhelmingly voted to support the bill as it originally passed the chamber.

SB1229
        The override for the total veto of Senate Bill 1229 also came up for a vote last week. The governor vetoed this bill over serious reservations about potentially handing a significant portion of the budget over to an unelected arbitrator who wouldn’t be accountable to taxpayers. After a long, contentious debate on the floor (over 2 hours), ultimately the bill did not receive the necessary votes (3/5ths) to go in effect despite the governor’s veto.
        A good sign that negotiations between AFSCME and Governor Rauner can move forward in good faith, the administration and the Teamsters announced a new 4 year contract. 4,600 State employees are covered by the new agreement and it included concessions from both sides. Key features of the new contract include a four-year wage freeze, maintenance of existing health care benefits, and a reduction in the number of unused vacation days that future new State hires in Teamster-organized work spaces will be allowed to carry over.

Comptroller Struggling to Make Payments
       Many providers of mandated state financed services report that despite court order, they are not being paid. The Comptroller’s office has been struggling to make payments mandated by judges while balancing all of the state’s other obligatory payments (i.e debt/pensions). The Comptroller’s office has warned that due to the state’s cash flow problems, every day is an evaluation of which payments can be made based on the cash on hand and not all payments can be met on specific days.
       As I mentioned in my last newsletter, through court orders and administrative actions, almost 90% of the budget has been decided on despite the legislature not having implemented a budget. Without legislative action we are on a dangerous trend towards needing more revenue. The Comptroller’s office estimates the state is operating around $300 million in deficit spending a month to meet its mandatory payments.
The state’s unpaid bill backlog currently sits at just under $5.3 billion dollars, the result of underfunding budgets and relying on borrowing. Illinois delays payments of bills from vendors, service providers, as well as money owed to local units of government and for employee health insurance to help it manage cash flow. The Governor and the Comptroller have both made pledges to pay it down, but in the absence of a budget and in light of both court orders and legislative decisions to fund the budget piece by piece, the office is struggling to manage the state’s bills as is.

Budget Update
       Moody’s, the global bond rating service, in a report published last Monday warned of consequences if the budget stalemate is not resolved soon. Changes in the debt rating of Illinois affect interest rates that must be paid by Illinois taxpayers. Rating agencies such as Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings have given Illinois the lowest debt rating of any US state. The House again failed to take up the issue of the budget while in session last Tuesday and unfortunately, the House isn’t in session again until September 24th.

Pizza Townhalls
       It’s an unprecedented and difficult time in Springfield right now. To help keep residents informed, I’ll be hosting a series of informal town halls in the coming weeks. These meet n’ greet style events will be held at pizza places throughout the district. As I am still fairly new to the job, it will be a way of introducing myself to residents. It will also provide a forum for people to talk about what is going on in the district and down in Springfield. I encourage you to come with questions, comments, or concerns and partake in one of these fun, relaxed, FREE events.

The townhalls will be on Sundays at 6pm on the following dates:
        September 13th at Aurelio’s at 16529 W 159th St in Lockport
        September 20th at Beggars Pizza at 9515 W 191st St. in Mokena
        September 27th at Little Joe’s Pizza at 20805 South La Grange Rd in Frankfort
        October 4th at Chicago Dough Company at 1080 E Lincoln Hwy in New Lenox
Veto season is getting underway, Governor Rauner has thus far vetoed 21 House Bills and amended through his veto power another 10. Here's some helpful information on the process 

The Illinois Constitution provides the Governor with four possible veto alternatives, below is a brief description of each:

Total Veto
The Governor can veto an entire bill by returning it with his objections to the chamber in which it originated. The General Assembly can override this veto by a vote of three-fifths of the members elected to each chamber.

The State of Illinois is facing a crisis of epic proportions. The situation in Springfield is unlike anything we have ever seen. While I have been out and about in my district, I can see that many people still have questions and concerns.

To help keep residents informed, I’ll be hosting a series of informal town halls. The best part is that these meet n’ greet style events will be held at pizza places throughout the district. It will be my way of introducing myself to residents and provide a forum for people to talk about what is going on in the district and down in Springfield. The events will be held on Sundays at 6pm on the following dates:

September 13th at Aurelio’s at 16529 W 159th St in Lockport
September 20th at Beggars Pizza at 9515 W 191st St. in Mokena 
September 27th at Little Joe’s Pizza at 20805 South La Grange Rd in Frankfort
October 4th at Chicago Dough Company at 1080 E Lincoln Hwy in New Lenox 

I encourage anyone with questions, comments, or concerns to partake in one of these fun, relaxed, FREE events!  I look forward to seeing you, hearing your thoughts, and answering your questions.

            Sincerely,
            Margo McDermed

Governor Bruce Rauner signed SB 2042 today, which appropriates money for the pass through of federal dollars without adding to the state’s budget deficit. The clean bill allows the state to provide some services to the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

“Governor Rauner supported and signed this clean pass through bill because it will help those in need without adding to the state’s budget deficit,” Director of Communications Lance Trover said. “While the Governor continues to work on passing a balanced budget with structural reforms to maximize how much we can invest in our schools and important social services, some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens will be able receive additional support.”

SB2042
       What happened in Springfield this past week was unfortunately the kind of games and politics you always hear about. Senate Bill 2042, as it passed overwhelmingly and in a bipartisan manner originally from the Senate, would allow almost $5 billion in federal dollars to "pass through" the state. In the absence of a budget, many important state programs and social services have been unable to access this money. This legislation was very important and because it did not require any state funds, it thereby avoided the contentious ongoing debate about the state budget. All sides called for the bill to be kept 'clean', meaning that the legislation should pass the other chamber without amendments or alterations so that it could quickly signed by the Governor and implemented. It was verbally agreed to on all sides that this be the case.
        However, political games were again played and last Monday an amendment was filed by House Democrats. By adding the amendment, the House had added hundreds of millions in state spending and delayed any immediate action on the bill. In committee Republicans reasonably asked that the amendment be added to another bill so that the vital services in SB 2042 could quickly get through the legislative process instead of being held up. However, those pleas were rebuffed. After a rollercoaster debate that threatened to derail the entire process, eventually the Democrats agreed to a bipartisan solution, where the amendment was removed and another put in its place.
       With the Senate’s concurrence this week, this measure will help critical human services, child services, public health services, and student assistance programs. And based on the fact that this appropriations bill is entirely comprised of federal dollars, Governor Rauner has committed to signing the measure. While it is unfortunate that the bill cannot be sent to the Governor sooner because it was amended, it now includes previously omitted funding for homeland security that was suggested by House Republicans.

90%
       Wednesday’s vote on SB2042 will offer many programs a reprieve as they can access federal funds. That federal money will impact groups and programs such as IEMA, senior care, and children and family services. The courts have further ruled to continue state spending in other areas including ruling that state workers continue to be paid, which is why, despite not having a budget, we are not technically considered in a ‘government shutdown’. Another recent court ruling ordered that the state continue Medicaid payments for children. Senate Democrats released findings last week that estimated that nearly 90% of state spending has now been committed to because of the various court rulings and actions taken by the Rauner administration.
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Amazon now in Joliet
       Amazon, the online retailing firm, which stockpiles and forwards much (but not all) of the goods sold on its website, has opened its first sorting and order fulfillment center in Illinois. The 500,000-square-foot Joliet-based facility will carry out chores that are intended to increase the proportion of goods that can be delivered to Chicago-area customers on the day an electronic order is placed. The fulfillment center’s capabilities go well beyond those of a traditional warehouse.
       The fulfillment center will specialize in the warehousing, sorting, and delivery preparation of books, small electronics, and consumer goods. The site’s startup has created an estimated 1,000 Illinois jobs. The company has suggested that if the State is able to improve its business climate, they may open multiple fulfillment centers and other facilities in the Chicago area by 2017.
JCAR
        The bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) held a hearing this past Tuesday on Governor Rauner’s changes to the state childcare system. The 12 member committee, created in 1977, reviews administrative policies and rules set by State agencies. The two purposes of JCAR are to ensure that the General Assembly is adequately informed of how laws are implemented through agency rulemaking and to facilitate public understanding of rules and regulations.
       The hearing last week was an attempt to block the governor's recent changes to the Child Care Assistance Program. The effort would have needed a supermajority, which it did not get as the commission voted 6-4 on party lines. The governor implemented emergency rules which it argues are necessary in order to manage the state’s finances without a budget. Opponents to these cost saving measures, which lower the number of families eligible for the program, say these changes are unnecessary.

Concussions 
        A new law will toughen the rules intended to reduce and prevent athletic concussions. The Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act mandates that school with athletic programs develop rapid-response concussion emergency action plans that will enable medical help to be obtained and prompt care available in cases of actual or suspected head injuries. Parallel mandates are placed on youth sports leagues and on park districts that organize youth sports activities. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and other affected groups will develop rules and policies to implement the new law, which went into effect immediately and will apply to the 2015 high school football season.

Lincoln-Way
       As I'm sure many of you have heard by now, the school board has reached the decision to close Lincoln Way North. It is a very sad situation and I feel for those families that will be impacted by this closure. As a property tax paying resident of Lincoln-Way High School District 210, I will be carrying the tax burden for these schools alongside all of you. I feel the passionate involvement of parents, students, and staff will continue to be one of Lincoln-Way's greatest strengths. I will press forward in my fight to improve our state's economy so that the state can fully fund education. 
There is little doubt that Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 is on the minds of many in our area.  Issues of school closings, consolidation and realignment affect families, teachers, and students on such a personal level that contentiousness is quite often unavoidable.  This case is no exception.

In 2006 the decision was made by referendum that District 210 build two new high schools based on a high projection of revenue growth, many believed it was a prudent decision that would prepare the area for the future.  The measure passed via referendum with over 60% approval and seemed to set the district on a solid path.  Unfortunately, population and enrollment never met these expectations and the district is now operating all four schools well under capacity.


State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has been appointed by House Minority Leader Jim Durkin to the Commission to Reform Child Care. The commission, which was created by House Resolution 254 unanimously adopted in April, will address the burden of childcare on low income families. The goal of the commission is to help ensure that there are simple and fair systems to provide quality child care that is affordable for families. The commission's report is due on September 1st. 
While Illinois faces $5 billion in unpaid bills and struggles to find the resources to pay for vital services, Legislative Democrats are again thwarting attempts to reject an automatic legislative pay raise that was enacted July 1st of this year.

On Tuesday, Illinois House Republicans, again, requested the immediate release from the House Rules Committee, a bill (HB 4225) that would prohibit 2% cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for State government legislative and executive elected officers and appointees for the FY2015 budget.

Read more here
Frankfort, IL…  Area residents are encouraged to sign-up to donate blood at an upcoming Blood Drive to be held at 11032 W Lincoln Hwy in Frankfort on Thursday August 6th from 4:30-7:00pm. The Blood Drive is sponsored by State Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) with the Heartland Blood Center. Those interested in donating blood should call Rep. McDermed’s office to schedule an appointment at (815) 277-2079 or visit heartlandbc.org.

Donors are required to be in good general health and feeling well, be at least 17-years-old (or 16-years-old with parental consent) and weigh at least 110 lbs. Additional weight requirements apply for donors 18-years-old and younger and all high school donors. Healthy means that you feel well and can perform normal activities. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, healthy also means that you are being treated and the condition is under control.

Heartland works with 63 Illinois hospitals and has a commitment that all the blood they collect will go to local area hospitals. More than 500 donations are needed daily to save patient lives and donating one unit of blood can help save up to 3 lives.

“Blood donation is quick, easy and, saves countless lives in our community each year,” Rep. McDermed said. “I encourage local residents to sign-up today to come out for a great cause, donate some blood, and have a good time.”
Everyone who donates will receive a $5 Target gift card. Free food, refreshments, and music will also be provided.