The McDermed Dispatch

March 16th, 2015   
4,140
        With the bill filing deadline at the end of February there was a flurry of activity in the weeks leading up to it. By the close of business on Friday, February 27th, House members had turned in 4,140 substantive and appropriations bills for their colleagues to look at. Not all of these bills will get out of committee for full House consideration. House committees have until March 27th to look at the bills filed before the deadline.

My Legislation
        HB 303, which would amend the Freedom of Information Act to make all severance agreements funded by tax payer money subject to the IL Freedom of Information Act, passed out of committee on Wednesday, March 11th. The bill got attention after the $700k severance payment given to former College of DuPage president, Robert Brueder. Since first filed in January, the bill has gained significant support and a number of co-sponsors. It passed unanimously out of committee with a 9-0 vote. Next up is a debate on the House floor! You can read the bill at the ILGA website.
        Unfortunately, opioid overdoses are a grim fact of life for emergency medical responders, emergency medicine physicians, law enforcement, and families throughout Illinois.  In some cases, persons who have taken overdoses of opioid substances can be saved by the prompt administration of a specialized antidote drug such as Naloxone. Representative Werhli filed a bill, HB 438, that would authorize schools to administer an opioid antidote should that action be necessary to save a life. I am proud to have signed on to co-sponsor such important legislation and am happy to report that on Tuesday, March 10, the House Special Committee on Substance Abuse approved the measure unanimously.

Contact Lens Legislation
       
Reresentative Burke and Senator Clayborne have introduced legislation, in the House and Senate respectively, which would prohibit unilateral price policies for contact lenses. "UPP" is when a manufacturer unilaterally communicates a minimum sales price on their products. HB2450 is designed to protect consumers and allow contact lens retailers to competitively price their products and I plan on supporting this legislation.  

Clock Ticking on FY2015 Budget, FY16 Still Up in the Air
       The decision by the General Assembly and former Gov. Quinn to pass and sign an unbalanced FY15 budget in spring 2014 continues to endanger many Illinois residents. The budget reform work necessary to finish up Fiscal Year 2015 and start FY16 remained on the table this week even though the first hearings by the House appropriations committees began on February 26. With a shortfall estimated at $1.6 billion, many key spending areas in the FY15 budget are scheduled to run out of available funds prior to the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2015. These areas include court reporters, prison guards, and subsidized child care. Gov. Bruce Rauner has presented a proposal to the Illinois General Assembly to move money around within the budget to cover these anticipated urgent needs, but factions in the General Assembly who are politically opposed to the Governor have so far refused to allow this plan to come to the House floor for a vote. The FY 16 budget is even further out of balance and a lot of work remains to be done to insure that we don’t spend more than we have coming in, especially now that the tax hike has begun to phase out.  

House Taking a Look at School Funding Issue
          On Thursday March 6th, House Speaker Michael Madigan created a bipartisan education task force that will focus on studying the way the state distributes funding to public schools. Two bills have been introduced in the Senate that would extensively overhaul the way the state distributes school funding: Sen. Andy Manar's Senate Bill 1 and Sen. Jason Barickman's Senate Bill 1403. Sen. Manar introduced a similar bill last year. It passed the Senate but was not called for a vote in the House. Suburban Chicago lawmakers were concerned that many of their school districts would lose state funding. The bipartisan House Education Task Force held the first of what is expected to be many meetings this past Wednesday, March 11th. To be considered and discussed is equity in funding among the school districts and the adequacy of state funding. 

To Opt or not to Opt
         A controversial bill to allow parents to opt their children out of the PARCC test passed out of committee on March 4th. HB306 prohibits a student from being required to take an assessment exam if the student’s parent or guardian requests, in writing, that the student be excused from taking the State assessment. School districts began administering the test on Monday, March 9th.
        Sponsors of the bill believe there are too many assessment exams and that Chicago Public Schools are not equipped to properly administer PARCC exams. However, the Illinois State Board of Education is against this bill because, if Illinois allows students to opt out of assessment exams, school districts could potentially see a loss of $1.3 billion in federal funds for not meeting federal requirements. Under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act(ESEA), all states must annually assess all students in grades 3-8 and at one time in high school in English Language Arts and mathematics.

Illinois Unemployment falls, Remains Higher Than National Unemployment
          The figures for January 2015, reported on Thursday, March 12 by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) show that Illinois’s jobless rate fell from 6.2% to 6.1% in January 2015. The same number was 8.2% in January 2014, down 2.1% over the 12-month period. However, Soft spots in the statewide economic picture complicated the continued trend toward lower unemployment and indicated the continued trend of movement out of the labor force altogether. Job losses were seen in important sectors such as manufacturing (down 2,100 jobs), construction (down 2,500 jobs), and professional and business services (down 5,500 jobs).

Expo
      This past Saturday I attended the New Lenox Chamber of Commerce Community Expo and Home Show. Lincoln Way Central High School varsity water polo team stopped by to say hi and I got to meet some Disney princesses! It was great to talk with constituents and share information on how you can best utilize state services.
Illinois Gets More Historical
         23 sites in Illinois were added to the National Register of Historic sites. New sites included the brick built railroad depot from which Abraham Lincoln waved goodbye as his train left Springfield for DC in February 1861. In a change of emphasis, the National Register has begun listing historic downtown community centers, including central-city blocks that are currently redeveloping themselves or hope to redevelop.  Two Illinois downtowns, in East St. Louis and Elgin, are included in the 2015 listing.


Joliet Junior College Dishes

           The first formal dinner of the Rauner Administration was held on Tuesday, March 10th. It was held at the Governor’s mansion and the food was prepared by culinary students at Joliet Junior College. It was delicious!               
                        
March is Poison Prevention Month       
          I'm proud to be a friend to and supporter of the Illinois Poison Center, and he/she encourages all Illinoisans to take advantage of the educational materials, games, videos and resources available at www.illinoispoisoncenter.org and www.ipcblog.org, both during IPPM and throughout the year. The health and safety of X District residents remains Elected Official’s highest priority, and poison prevention education will help our community meet these goals.
         The IPC handles nearly 80,000 poison exposure calls each year from individuals, parents and caregivers throughout the state. Almost half of exposures statewide involve children five years of age and under. Nearly 90 percent of these calls can be handled at the site of exposure, preventing costly ambulance runs and emergency department visits for Illinois families, saving time, money and anguish. In all, the IPC saved the state of Illinois more than $52 million in reduced health care and lost productivity costs in 2014.
         For more information on Illinois Poison Prevention Month, please visit www.illinoispoisoncenter.org/IPPM.

Looking Ahead
            I’ll be at the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce Showcase on March 21st from 10am-3pm.  It is a great local event that will show community businesses and art. It will be held in the Lincoln-Way East High School Field House at 201 Colorado Ave in Frankfort.
            You will soon be receiving a survey in the mail with questions about issues that are important to you. When you receive it, please fill that out and return it so that I may better be able to represent you in Springfield. The survey will also soon be able to be filled out on my website.
          And finally, don't forget to mark your calendars for April 25th! My office will be holding an open house that Saturday from 9:30am to 12pm. It will be at 11032 W Lincoln Hwy in Frankfort.

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