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.