Springfield, IL… Proving that Springfield is capable of producing bipartisan solutions to the important issues of the day, today the House passed Senate Bill 1304. Responding to recent police controversies in Ferguson, Baltimore, and South Carolina, Representative Sims (D-Chicago) and Representative Anthony (R-Morris) led the charge on police reforms and body camera guidelines.  

“This is the type of legislation I came down to Springfield to see passed and I’m proud to put my name to this bill” Rep McDermed said. “It’s a wonderful change of pace to see significant and important reforms, given the appropriate comprehensive and inclusive consideration . It is amazing to see what we can do here when we work together. I want to commend Representatives Sims, Anthony, and Cabello for all of their hard work on this bill.”

200 police reform bills were filed in the House this year. Bipartisan efforts combined the best 15 bills into this one inclusive measure. Senate Bill 1304 passed by a 107-3 vote. It includes provisions for body camera guidelines, independent investigators, special prosecutors and new training. Illinois would be the first state in the nation to pass a comprehensive package of recommendations put forth by President Barack Obama's police task force.
Springfield, IL.... The House debated nine amendments to the budget today. Collectively, through bills in both the Senate and the House, the Democrats have, just days before session is scheduled to end, proposed a budget that spends almost $4 billion more than the state is projected to take in.

The majority party in the House has said that they are willing to work in a bipartisan manner on new revenue. However, they have presented a partisan budget with no input from the Republican members and no plan to pay for it. They claim that we need to kick the can down the road and spend this money now for the people that depend on the state.

“What about the people that need us five or ten years from now?” Representative McDermed said. “Or even the people at the end of the year when the money runs out and we’ve promised these important programs money we don’t have? We saw this a few months ago. Fiscal Year 2015 was unbalanced by over a billion dollars and fiscal gymnastics were necessary to make sure the state could continue providing important services like childcare. Illinois hasn’t passed a balanced budget since 2001. Since then our credit has tumbled, our debt has skyrocketed, our taxes have gone up, and valuable taxpayers have left this state. To say this way of doing things is both careless and unsustainable would be a massive understatement. The voters collectively made a statement in last year’s election that the 'Illinois way' of budgeting and irresponsible spending is the wrong way. Unfortunately, the majority party doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that message.”
I hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. Session is scheduled to end on May 31st and we are still very far apart on many issues. It’s going to be a tough week.

Memorial Day
       Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer. More importantly, it is the day that we take a moment to recognize and honor those who have died in the service of their country. Memorial Day was raised from an informal, local day of observance to national holiday through the effort of native Illinoisan General John A. Logan, a veteran of the Civil War. Due to the amount of work that still needs to be done, the House convened on Memorial Day.
       House Republicans took a moment for a small ceremony in front of the war memorial in the capital. At 3pm we held a moment of silences for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Veterans Employment
       On Thursday June 4th, Rich Sobczak, a Veterans Employment Specialist from the Illinois Department of Employment Security will hold the first monthly session on job preparation and educational/training programs to help veterans find employment. These sessions will take place at Hines VA Hospital, building 228, 4th Floor North from 9:00 to 11:00 am. Please bring your DD 214 member 4 form and your resume.

Worker’s Compensation- Madigan vs Rauner
       On Friday the House debated several amendments from Speaker Madigan on workers compensation reform. The presenter of the amendments urged a no vote. Why put forth an amendment asking a body to vote it down? Because again, instead of coming to the table to discuss realistic and necessary reforms to a broken system, Madigan is putting forth legislation claiming it as the “governors” and then having his majority party vote it down to embarrass the governor. Madigan’s proposals thus far have all been meant for failure.
       The business community, recognizing this farce, sent a letter to legislators on Friday asking that they vote against Madigan’s proposals:
                “At this time, we are asking all House lawmakers to vote present on the workers’ compensation amendments filed yesterday until our elected officials have reached comprehensive agreement on reform. Illinois employers stand ready to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle.”
       The Governor has filed his own bill on worker’s compensation. The bill would require the cause of a worker’s injury to be factored into worker’s compensation benefits, put greater flexibility in to the arbitration process, and includes protections for those who work multiple similar jobs in a row and get an aggravated injury, like that of the coal miner we heard during the worker’s compensation Committee of the Whole.

“Millionaire Tax”
        Speaker Madigan’s so-called ‘millionaire tax’ which would add a 3% surcharge on income earned over $1 million dollars was debated last week. The Illinois Constitution establishes a flat tax rate and so a constitutional amendment is necessary for any change. The leader of the Senate has said that he will not consider any constitutional amendments until next year, but Madigan still put forth this amendment with just over a week left in session.
     The tax was promoted as a way to help fund education, however nothing in the language of the amendment directly helps school districts. The amendment simply authorizes the General Assembly to pass a hypothetical future bill on where this money will go. When Illinois instituted a lottery it was similarly claimed that it would bolster education funding. Instead of increasing overall funding the state simply reduced its obligation to the school fund in the amount from the lottery. Nothing in the amendment prevents the GA from making the same moves they did then.
       I take issue with this specific proposal for a number of reasons. We’ve seen how this type of legislation can have negative effect on jobs and tax receipts in states like New Jersey, which instituted a similar change in 2004. A 2011 New Jersey Treasury study found that changes in their tax rates had led to a cumulative loss of 20,000 taxpayers and $2.5 billion in annual state income. This legislation will potentially have a negative effect on small businesses as well as many are pass-through entities. 71% of small businesses file as individuals. Many of those businesses and their owners have income that exceeds one million dollars, but most of the owners of those companies leave much of that income in their businesses and reinvest in growing their companies. This leads to investment in the community and more jobs. Finally, putting a specific dollar amount in the constitution, which is incredibly difficult to change, is a bad idea. In 1970 when the Illinois Constitution was adopted, $164,000 was equivalent to $1 million today.
       Any possible revenue from HJRCA26 wouldn’t be reaped until at least 2017/2018 and does nothing in the meantime to address the budget shortfall we are currently facing. Governor Rauner has said no revenue before reform. The taxpayers shouldn’t have to keep reaching in to their pockets only to give to a state that has proven it cannot properly manage funds. Instead of working to fix the problems, the problem makers are asking the taxpayers to bail them out with no guarantees that the irresponsible spending practices will change.

Term Limits
        Freshman from the Republican caucus in the House, including myself, held a press conference last week calling for term limits. House Republicans have filed four separate constitutional amendments aimed at imposing term limits in Illinois; all seek to put on the ballot limits on legislative terms to varying degrees. On Friday the Governor filed his own amendment limiting legislators to a total of 10 years and executive officials to 8 years.

Turnaround Agenda
     The majority party has proven intractable and has seemingly left the negotiation table in the working groups. So on Friday, Governor Rauner filed several pieces of legislation relating to his Turnaround Agenda. The five bills that were introduced reflect some of the compromises and concerns raised by Democrats in the working groups. His bills included reforms to tort laws limiting venue shopping by lawyers, reforms to workers compensation, a temporary property tax freeze on all governments (including home rule units), an amendment to the Illinois constitution instituting term limits, a constitutional amendment to the remove legislators from the redistricting process, and a bill allowing a unit of local government to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection after attempting to find a solution through a neutrally guided process. The governor’s office has put forth their legislation because Democrats have stopped negotiating in good faith. The majority party has walked away from the working groups, which were meant to reach bipartisan compromise, instead throwing around fake pieces of legislation and playing politics. It is up to the Speaker to see if these bills get a legitimate chance for debate and a vote.

Department of Transportation Releases Plan
  IDOT has announced a FY2016-2021 proposed Multi-Modal Transportation Improvement Program. The program has an anticipated spending level of just over $8 billion dollars with $5 billion going to improvements to the state highway system and $3 billion to the local highway system. The majority of the money will be used for road and bridge maintenance. The money is being provided by mostly by federal highway funds, but also through gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, and the consolidation of transportation programs. These sources face an uncertain future and so this program is expected to be supplemented by a separate planned capital bill that is being considered in a statewide tour.

Chase Looking To Help Small Businesses
        Chase recently celebrated National Small Business Week with the launch of Mission Main Street Grants, a program that will award $100,000 grants to 20 U.S. small businesses. In addition, the 20 grant recipients will receive a trip to LinkedIn’s California headquarters to gain insights that will help them grow their businesses. Today through June 5, any for-profit business in the U.S. with fewer than 100 employees and which meets all other eligibility requirements may apply. Full eligibility requirements are available at www.MissionMainStreetGrants.com/rules. The contest ends on June 5th.
        Small businesses can also get a boost by going to www.metrochicagoexports.com. To help small businesses located in our area expand their sales to new international markets, Metro Chicago Exports builds off the work of the Global Cities Initiative to help grow our local communities by connecting them to global markets.
House Resolution 454 mourns the passing of Bruce Ebert, an active and important community member. The resolution recognized his many achievements and contributions to the Frankfort/Mokena area. His family came down to Springfield and witnessed the House hold a moment of silence in his memory.
Springfield, IL… House Republican freshmen, four months on the job, came together in the Capitol today to express their frustration with the partisan political atmosphere that has engulfed Springfield.  The message they came to deliver is that there is no better time than now to call for term limits in Springfield.  

“Knocking on doors during my campaign and attending events throughout my district, one of the most frequent issues I hear about is the need for term limits.” Representative McDermed said. "Illinoisans have made clear this is an issue that they want to see put on the ballot."

Springfield, IL… Senate Bill 1688, picked up in the House by Representative Margo McDermed (R- Mokena) passed the House yesterday with a vote of 85-14-1. The bill amends the Illinois Vital Records Act to authorize certification or a certified copy of a birth certificate to be issued upon the specific written request of a State’s Attorney for the purpose of a criminal prosecution. 

There are just two weeks left before the House is scheduled to adjourn. I'm continuing to work diligently to get as much done as I can for the 37th district in the remaining time. 

Chicago Downgraded
            In a reaction to the Illinois’ Supreme Court decision to strike down the 2013 pension reform law, Moody’s downgraded Chicago’s credit rating to a level considered to be “junk” status. Being downgraded makes it more difficult and expensive for the city to borrow money because it means that a rater has formally acknowledged the material risk that Chicago may on a future date fail to repay its bondholders in full and the city may default on its debts. Last Friday’s decision, while not surprising, still came as a huge blow and has added pressure to the working group currently discussing pension reform.

Tort Reform
            Many business groups say that Illinois is a ‘lawsuit friendly’ state, which impedes the growth of the economy here and affects the amount of jobs. In the second Committee of the Whole in as many weeks, the House listened to testimony from victims of medical malpractice and corporate negligence. The daylong hearing heard heart wrenching testimony designed to put a human face on lawsuits.
           Those testifying from other states said that caps on damages in their states didn’t allow them to receive what a judge and jury had awarded them. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled in 2010 that limits on damages awarded to victims of medical negligence are unconstitutional. Instead, Governor Rauner has proposed addressing setting geographic limits on lawsuits to stop trial lawyers from shopping for venues, restricting medical expense calculations to include amounts paid rather than billed, and allowing defendants to spread their liability to other parties. Those issues did not get properly addressed during the hearing as representatives from the business community or other relevant communities were noticeably not invited to testify.

House Resolution 55
            Media investigations, sparked by the lucrative severance package given to former College of DuPage president Robert Breuder, uncovered numerous shoddy spending practices by the college trustees. Members of the House unanimously approved HR 55, a resolution which launches a comprehensive audit of the college by the State Auditor General, the cost of which will be taken on by the school. The public outcry has been swift and clear; three new trustees were brought on to the board in April’s elections.

Madigan's Right to Work Fails
            On Thursday, Speaker Madigan put forth a vote which would allow local voters, through the petition process and referendums, to make union membership voluntary rather than mandatory in their communities. Allowing for local areas to determine for themselves whether they would like to create such employee empowerment zones, or right to work areas, has been promoted by the Governor, but the governor hasn’t filed a bill with the Legislature. Instead, in a political exercise from the Speaker designed to put legislators in the hot seat before details have even been discussed, the speaker used up valuable legislative time on a proposal intended to fail. Speaker Madigan’s measure received zero yes votes. In a rare move, the Speaker voted down his own amendment. Most Republicans voted present to protest the highly irregular process through which this legislation was introduced. The Speaker bypassed the committee process and the chance to discuss the bill in a bipartisan manner. It was unfortunately a measure to create conflict and steer the debate away from real reform which can create jobs. As Lincoln said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” and Madigan seems intent on dividing the House.

Property Tax Bills
            In another ploy to derail the Governor’s plans for reform, two House Democrats, Representatives John Bradley and Jack Franks, filed property tax freeze amendments to one of Speaker Madigan’s shell bills. On Friday, we discussed one sponsored by Rep. Franks. The debate got heated because legislators were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Illinois has the second highest property taxes in America; no one was disputing that we need reform. However, what we were presented with was neither a well-developed nor well-crafted proposal that was rushed to the floor by Speaker Madigan. The sponsor had no estimates as to the effect this will have on our local governments and schools. Even though the amendment was adopted, the bill isn’t expected to become law.
           As we have been doing, Republicans in the House chose as a caucus to vote “present” as a message that we won’t participate in these types of political maneuvers by Speaker Madigan and the legislative majority. I am committed to property tax reform, but passing irresponsible and non-comprehensive reforms, which would tie the hands of local governments and offer no relief through other means, is the wrong approach.

Summer Reading Club
            Summer is fast approaching and kids will be on break soon. I’ve decided to start a reading club for local elementary school kids to help keep their minds engaged during the summer months.  This year’s theme is “Going Places with Reading” because when a child reads their imaginations are jump started and the possibilities are endless. Participants who read 8 books over the summer break are invited to an ice cream party in August where there will be drawings for prizes and they will receive an official certificate. Local libraries and schools have all been given a copy of the brochure with the appropriate form, so make sure your child gets theirs! Contact the office if you have any questions about the club or how to participate. The deadline is August 7th, so start reading!
Once again the Democrat-controlled House brought sham legislation to a vote for the sole purpose of putting Republican lawmakers in a trick bag and embarrassing the new Governor.

House Republicans have long worked to provide Illinoisans with much needed and deserved property tax relief. Each year members of the House Republican Caucus introduce legislation that would deliver property tax relief and each year the Democrats block those measures. The real roadblock to property tax relief has been the Democrat-controlled legislature...

Read more on the Illinois House Republicans Caucus Blog
May 11th, 2015

With so little time left before the end of the scheduled session, a lot is going on each week down in Springfield. For that reason, I’ve decided to send out my newsletter weekly for the next few weeks.

Buckle up folks, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Legislative Update
        My bills continue to move forward in the Senate as expected. I filed two House resolutions this week. One memorializes Bruce Ebert, a longtime Frankfort community leader. Another mourns the death of Olivia Kresach, a local young woman who died last year from glioblastoma. It also designates May 9, 2016 as Gray Day in Illinois to raise awareness for brain cancer. I’m grateful that part of my job as State Representative allows me to highlight local leaders and such important issues.

Budget Update
        As I said last week, there are a number of ongoing working groups hammering out proposed reforms and the budget. However, on Wednesday morning, House Speaker Madigan started the day off by filing a 125 page amendment to a shell bill, HB4141, giving legislators barely an hour to read it. It contained similar language to the yet to be negotiated human services budget cuts proposed by Governor Rauner. The amendment was then voted down by the Democrats in the assembly. Speaker Madigan did not even vote.
       House Democrats continued the charade by introducing hundreds of pages of additional budget amendments mere hours before they were voted on, denying representatives, committees, and constituents an opportunity to fully read or offer input on them before they were rammed through. The budget amendments totaled billions of dollars of spending. House Republicans voted ‘Present’ to highlight this irregular and purely partisan disruption of the budget and committee process. Unfortunately this move is politics as usual for the Speaker. Madigan used this to send a message to the Governor and in the process wasted valuable time which could have been spent productively working together. It is a far cry from the bipartisanship the Speaker touted in January when we were sworn in for this General Assembly.

Worker’s Compensation
        On Tuesday, the House held session for over seven hours in a rare ‘Committee of the Whole’. A committee of the whole is when a legislative body or assembly is considered one large committee. They are convened by the Speaker usually for the purpose of hearing important testimony or giving greater consideration to the discussion of a bill. Worker’s compensation, an area highlighted for reform to create jobs by Governor Rauner, was the subject of Tuesday’s committee.
        Worker’s compensation was reformed in Illinois back in 2011, but businesses were promised much greater savings than has actually materialized prompting the calls for more reform. It is considered by businesses in and outside of Illinois the number one barrier to doing business here. Currently, Illinois worker’s compensation costs are the 7th highest in the country, an improvement from 3rd before the 2011 reforms. The names of those testifying were not released until Tuesday morning. There were seven panels of witnesses, mostly injured workers from Illinois and other states as far as Oklahoma. They all shared their stories and testified that Illinois should not cut worker’s benefits, a move which is certainly not being considered. Only one business representative, the CEO of the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association, was invited by Speaker Madigan to give testimony. Many considered it to be a dog and pony show that produced little results on what changes actually need to be made.
         There are serious issues that need to be addressed with Illinois’ system and businesses need to be consulted while ensuring that workers do not lose benefits. Our time would be better spent discussing what we should do and not discussing what we shouldn’t do or what isn’t even on the table. Instead our focus should be on examining the lengthy litigation process and fixing the system so that it doesn’t take years for workers to get their benefits.

House vs Senate Softball Game
softball_2.jpg          After a long session on Wednesday, the House and the Senate played in their annual softball game. The game was tied for a bit until the House ran away with it in the 3rd inning and never looked back. The House won the game 16-10. Congratulations to our neighbor, Representative Anthony DeLuca, on being named the House MVP.

State Pension Law Struck Down
         In 2013, to help combat the over $100 billion dollars in pension liability facing the state, the General Assembly passed a pension reform law that limited the annual raises for pensions, raised the retirement age, and imposed other changes to reduce costs. The law was immediately challenged in court and therefore never implemented. The state argued that Illinois’ severe financial problems gave the state police powers that allow it to change pensions despite the pension protection clause in the state Constitution, which states that pension benefits cannot be diminished or impaired. The court disagreed and, in a unanimous decision on Friday, declared the pension reform law unconstitutional. It’s now back to the drawing board on pension reform.
Springfield, IL… Today Illinois House Democrats forced partisan votes on spending bills aimed at undermining the budget process and thwarting the ability of minority legislators to participate. Democrats introduced hundreds of pages of amendments to HB 4141 mere hours before the vote, denying Republicans an opportunity to fully read or offer input on the bill before it was rammed through.

“Speaker Madigan today displayed his power and his unwillingness to work together by springing these votes on the General Assembly” said Rep McDermed. “This was nothing more than a partisan, bitter message to the governor that did nothing productive to help this state navigate its fiscal crisis. It wasted what precious time we have left in session to solve the many problems facing our state. We Republicans are willing to work together, but it shamefully does not appear to be a sentiment shared by the other side of the aisle.”

The budget amendments totaled billions of dollars of spending. Republicans voted Present to highlight this irregular and purely partisan disruption of the budget process.
It seems as though spring has finally sprung, I hope you enjoyed the beautiful weather this past weekend!

Legislative Update
         April 24th was the deadline for bills to be approved by the House and sent to the Senate. Of the over 4,000 bills which were filed, only 331 are set to be considered by the Senate. The House has turned its focus to discussing the 251 bills that the Senate sent over. There are only 27 days left until the legislature is scheduled to adjourn for summer, so bills will be moving along quickly.
        Big bills that passed out of the House before the deadline included HB218, which lowers the penalties for small possessions of marijuana, and HB173 (a bill I co-sponsored) which would ban red light camera systems in non-home rule municipalities. Another one of my own bills, HB3983, which would clarify the state’s policy on the location of strip clubs with regard to other sensitive buildings (i.e. schools, churches, etc) passed as well.
        Other important bills included HB574 which would reorganize the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) into two groups.  One, a private nonprofit corporation subject to appropriate oversight, will promote economic development. The other will continue many of its current functions in community development, assistance, and employment. The bill also establishes the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum as an independent agency and puts the remaining functions of the Historic Preservation Agency under the purview of the DCEO. HB4025 provides that at least one semester of the required two years of social studies in high school be civics. It also allows school districts to utilize private funding to provide additional teacher training. HB178 freezes for one year the township general fund property tax levies in townships which have populations of less than 100,000 and are subject to PTELL (Property Tax Extension Limitation Law).
        While little happened legislatively last week, a lot of the footwork got underway to deal with major issues. Several bipartisan legislative working groups began meeting to tackle reform proposals from the Governor including worker’s compensation, term limits, and stricter ethics rules.

Budget Update
        As a result of the 1.5 billion dollar hole in this year’s unbalanced budget, fiscal year 2015, signed by former Governor Pat Quinn, numerous cuts were necessary to state programs. This included $26 million dollars in grant cuts to autism programs, funding for indigent burials, the Illinois Tobacco Quitline, and other human services. In response to revised estimates of this year’s revenues, the governor has made the decision to restore the $26 million dollars in funding. The governor was put in a very difficult position by the Democrat controlled General Assembly and while this is some good news, the budget for this upcoming year is in an even more uphill battle.
        A large budget group, which includes all appropriations committee chairs plus senior legislators and staff from all four caucuses and the governor’s budget office, were among the working groups that began meeting. The FY16 budget is facing a $6 billion budget deficit with the rollback of the income tax hike that took effect in January and the lack of responsible budget cuts over the last few years. It is unclear if an agreement will be reached in time or if the legislature will need to continue in to the summer.

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Meetings
       With a new administration in the Governor’s mansion and a new head of IDOT, the department will be holding hearings and meetings across the state in order to identify critical needs and strategic priorities. These informal meetings will have the purpose of discussing Illinois’ broad infrastructure needs in an effort to advance a capital program that can address the most pressing needs on our roads. The Governor will talk to local leaders in at least 30 separate Illinois communities to hear their needs for additional help in maintaining vital local infrastructure. Financially, times are tight in this state, but it is essential that we responsibly invest in infrastructure projects that can drive the economy and improve the lives of our residents. IDOT projects that over the next six years, 40 percent of Illinois highways and one in seven bridges will be in unacceptable condition.
        The tour began last week and will be in our area on May 7th in Hazel Crest discussing Southern Cook County projects and in Joliet on May 21st discussing Will County’s infrastructure needs.

USS Illinois
        The U.S. Navy is preparing to commission the most advanced nuclear powered submarine in the world and it will bear the name, U.S.S. Illinois. The sub has been under construction for over a year in Connecticut. It is expected to be christened in October and officially commissioned in December or early next year. Sailors were in the capital this past Wednesday to ask lawmakers to sponsor a voluntary income tax write off to help fund the ceremonies surrounding its launch. A civilian committee has been set up to support the sub and its personnel. By custom, civilian committees like this one are responsible for much of the financial support necessary to celebrate a vessel’s launch and entry into active service. The last ship to be named after our state was a battleship commissioned in 1901.

Obama’s Presidential Library
        HB 373, also passed before the deadline, authorizes the construction of a presidential library on public parkland in Chicago. The Hyde Park neighborhood has been officially selected as the location by President Obama. A bid to construct it there has been filed by Mayor Emanuel’s office and the University of Chicago, where Obama worked as a lecturer in constitutional law. No state money was allocated to the building of the library in the bill. The library is expected to be built with private funds, and will be operated with a combination of federal and private funds. Features of the Obama Library bill could also strengthen the legal position of Emanuel’s office in his separate fight to build a museum on Chicago’s lakefront honoring filmmaker George Lucas, known for the Star Wars franchise (May the fourth be with you!). Language within the bill exempts museums and aquariums affiliated with the city of Chicago from requirements that reclaimed Lake Michigan bottomland be protected if it was reclaimed for public use. 

Teen Driving
        Don’t forget! I’m hosting a teen driving safety seminar on May 9th from 11am-1pm at the New Lenox Village Hall. The State Department will be on hand with safety information and information about the Graduated Driving License program. Different rules and laws exist for teen drivers at different ages and it is important to understand this information to avoid getting in trouble. There will also be a distracted driving simulator so teens can see just how dangerous it can be to use a cellphone or get distracted in any other way while driving. Space is limited so please have your teen registered by emailing mcdermed@ilhousegop.org.

Thank you to everyone who came out to my open house last Saturday and made it such a success!