The McDermed Dispatch for May 4th

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
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        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!

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