Welcome to my newsletter, it an honor to serve you as your representative in Springfield!
 
My Legislation
         HB3983- State policy and law regarding the location of adult entertainment facilities has been unclear and led to complex constitutional questions. This bill shores up, and constitutionally strengthens, the state’s laws in respect to the setbacks of these facilities from schools, day care centers, parks, and places of worship. The measure establishes at least a 250 foot minimum separation between these facilities and that municipality’s border. This will allow cities to locally control where adult entertainment facilities are located while protecting their neighboring communities that may have a different standard. The bill passed unanimously out of committee on Wednesday March 26th.

House Deadline Passes  
        Including action in “committee deadline week,” which ended on Friday, March 27, the Illinois House advanced 512 bills from committee to the House floor in this spring session. House committees began meeting in February to take testimony and hear advocacy from witnesses, proponents and opponents for and against the measures filed by House members.  This work was finished up this week.  After the conclusion of the two-week “Easter break,” the House and its committees will consider floor action and amendments to the House bills that advanced out of committee. The House will also start looking at bills coming over from the state Senate.  Less than 13% of the bills filed this spring were able to achieve approval by a House committee.  

FY15
        On Tuesday March 25th, the House passed HB317 and HB318, which were necessary to fix the $1.6 billion dollar hole in the unbalanced FY15 budget that was passed last year. The fix averted a potential fiscal disaster as the funds for certain state services, such as child care and prison guards, were set to run out of money at the end of this month. The bill was passed with bipartisan support and contains no new borrowing or revenue increases.
       The measure creates a 2.25% budget cut across the board with exceptions for pensions, state employee health care and programs to aid the mentally ill, developmentally disabled and autistic children. The Local Government Distributive Fund, which gives a portion of the state income tax to local governments, will be left intact. Governor Rauner was given the discretion to use $97 million dollars to help school districts that might be most harmed by the cuts in the middle of the school year and another $90 million to plug any unexpected problems as they arise before the end of the fiscal year.
        On Thursday, the Senate passed the bill as well and Governor Rauner signed it that evening. I am hopeful we can take some of the lessons learned from this as all eyes now turn to the FY16 budget.

Springfield Visits
                                                            Local 4H Students                                               
As a State Legislator I am always being visited in Springfield by groups looking to share more about their organization or their thoughts on a particular piece of legislation. It is always a pleasure to meet with these groups especially when their representatives are from the 37th district.
Will County Farm Bureau
Concealed Carry 
         On March 16th, the online application for FOID cards went active. Until now the Illinois State Police (ISP) has required Illinois firearms owners to submit paper applications for a concealed carry permit. The ISP will no longer accept the current FOID paper applications however, like the Concealed Carry License (CCL), the new FOID application will be available through the Department's website or through the paper alternative call center method for those individuals who do not have computer access (217-782-7980). This follows up on the start up period of the Firearm Concealed Carry Act, in which more than 91,000 Illinois residents have earned permits that enable them to carry concealed firearms. 
Senior Event
        In conjunction with the Frankfort Township Assessor’s office annual Senior Freeze Day, on April 10th from 10am-2pm, I will be hosting a senior fraud and scam information event.  A representative from the Attorney General's office will be on hand to discuss common scams and frauds specifically directed at senior citizens. Plenty of informational pamphlets will be available. The event will be held in the Assessor’s office conference room at 11000 W Lincoln Hwy.

Looking Ahead
         The legislature may be on Spring Break for the next two weeks, but I have a full schedule of events touring the district. I’ll be at the annual Frankfort Township senior spring fling on Tuesday. I’ll also be touring the Will Grundy Center for Independent Living and Misericordia Home, both facilities for supporting those with disabilities. As a first time legislator I think it’s important that I take every opportunity I can to see more of the district to get a better idea of what the state can do to help.
 
My survey is scheduled to be mailed out at the end of this week, keep an eye out and share your thoughts on state issues!
 
As always, please don’t hesitate to contact my district office at (815) 277-2079 if you have any questions or concerns. 
Yesterday the House passed HB318, which was necessary to fix the $1.6 billion dollar hole in the FY15 budget that was passed last year. The need for a fix was coming down to the wire as the funds for certain state services, such as child care and prison guards, were set to run out of money at the end of March. The fix was made at the recommendation of the Governor and was presented to the House by Speaker Michael Madigan.  All 46 present Republicans voted for the bill.
The mess that was created put the new governor in a difficult position where tough calls were needed. The measure creates a 2.25% budget cut across the board with exceptions for pensions, state employee health care and programs to aid the mentally ill, developmentally disabled and autistic children. The Local Government Distributive Fund, which gives a portion of the state income tax to local governments, will be left intact.
Governor Rauner was given the discretion to use $97 million dollars to help school districts that might be most harmed by the cuts in the middle of the school year. He was also given leeway with another $90 million to plug any unexpected problems as they arise.
          “Today the House made the right call,” Representative McDermed said, “last year’s budget was incredibly irresponsible. It promised money that the state just didn’t have. This measure will allow us to move on to the FY16 budget with a clean slate. I’m hopeful the Democrats will work with us on a more commonsense budget than last years because this pattern of patchwork budgets just can't continue if we want to get Illinois back on the right track."
Ever wonder who to contact when you have a question or concern relating to government?

Before picking up the phone or sitting down in front of the computer to send an e-mail to your elected officials, take a moment to consider what level of government your issue applies to. Doing so can help you save time and get a quicker response from the right person or agency.


Many people are unsure who to contact with their concerns about today’s most pressing public policy issues. A quick civics lesson can help clear up some of the confusion:
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.

Like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter for more frequent updates!


HB 303, which would amend the Freedom of Information Act to forbid the use of confidentiality clauses in settlements or severance agreements involving tax payer money, passed out of committee today. The bill was, in part, sparked by the over 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.
The Culinary Arts program at Joliet Junior College was in Springfield last night. The first formal dinner of the Rauner administration was held at the Governor's mansion and dinner was prepared by this award winning program. The event was hosted by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and State Senator Pat McGuire.

You can read more about the event and the students that participated here
Joliet Junior College had an AG Expo on Tuesday-Thursday. Over the course of three days 17 local public schools visited with a total of 1471 students and 121 adults. The Ag Expo shows students how agriculture directly affects their daily lives. It also provides information about careers and helps to separate the fact from the fiction regarding many hot topics in agriculture and nutrition.  




Pictured are 4th grade children from District 37 Area Schools such as Nelson Ridge in New Lenox and St Joseph in Lockport.




And on Thursday the capitol hosted many FFA groups from around the state for Illinois Agriculture Legislative Day. They brought special lunches for all the state legislators!
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Welcome to my  monthly E-Newsletter! On Wednesday, January 14th, I was sworn in for my first full term as your Representative. It is an honor to serve you. Below is a quick update on a few developments and issues from this past month:

Recent Action on Legislation
     I filed my first bill, HB 303, on January 26th. This bill amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to define the term “severance agreement”. It forbids the use of confidentially clauses in severance agreements made with taxpayer money. The bill is designed to increase government transparency and encourage appropriate allocation of taxpayer funds. On February 13th the bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee for deliberation.
      I filed HB 303 because I saw the necessity of ensuring a process that is fair to the taxpayers after College of Dupage's recent lucrative severance package given to its former president . As such, I became a co-sponsor of Rep. Jeanne Ives’ (R- Wheaton) House Resolution, HJR20, on February 6th. The resolution urges the Board of Trustees at the College of DuPage to reconsider the 762,000 dollar severance agreement reached with Dr. Robert Breuder and to rename the College of DuPage Homeland Security Education Center in honor of Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller. It was referred to the Rules Committee on February 18th.
      On February 19th, I joined with Rep Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside) to Co-Sponsor HB2512. The bill calls for a disabilities task force to consider issues that affect persons with disabilities and their involvement with police, aspects of the judicial system, and public safety. The task force will make recommendations to the Governor and GA with the goal of ensuring the well-being of those with disabilities while protecting public safety. The members of this task force will serve without compensation and will be appointed the Attorney General. On the 19th, I also became a Co-Sponsor on HB2658,  which Amends the State Property Control Act to allow retiring State Police officers to purchase the service pistol and badge they used throughout their career. 

My Committees
      On Friday February 20th, I was appointed to the Appropriations-General Services Committee, bringing my total committee assignments up to seven: Counties & Townships, State Government Administration, Environment, Intermodal Infrastructure, Health Care Licenses, and Juvenile Justice & System-Involved Youth.

Elsewhere in the General Assembly
      The House has started its schedule of spring 2015 hearings. Under the Rules of the House, all House bills and most amendments are looked at and debated by committees. Members of these committees have been previously named, but the panels themselves started to meet this week, hearing testimony and remarks from advocates and witnesses. House committees can approve a bill, reject a bill, or hold the bill for further debate. Potential committee actions are posted in the General Assembly Dashboard prior to each committee hearing and Illinois voters are welcome to follow issues they are interested in at the ILGA website.
   The filing deadline for bills in the House was this past Friday. There was a flurry of activity in the week leading up to it as members tried to get as many of their bills submitted before the cutoff.

Governor’s Budget Address
      Governor Rauner addressed the General Assembly with the yearly Budget Address on Wednesday, February 18th. Below is my response:
“The Governor’s message today was clear: our state finances are in crisis, and we will need to work together now on the difficult decisions needed to turn it around. It’s clear Governor Rauner recognizes that like our families, our state must live within its means, and he has given us an honest assessment and a starting point for negotiation. As I review the details in the coming weeks, I am looking forward to discussing them with my constituents and getting their input. I’m optimistic that this spring we will finally begin to get Illinois back on track.”
State Pension and Health Benefits
      After being sworn in, I refused a state pension and the health benefits offered to members of the General Assembly. Illinois is in a serious fiscal hole and has one of the worst funded state pension systems in the nation. My refusal, while a marginal step, shows my determination to get this state’s finances under control and my willingness to take the necessary actions. I hope that other Representatives and Senators, who haven’t already, will consider doing the same.

Looking Ahead
           This past Saturday, February 28th, I attended the Mokena Business Expo. 
   
   I am committed to attending as many events in my district as possible. As such, my district team and I will be attending the New Lenox Chamber of Commerce Business Expo on March 14th and the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce Community Showcase on March 21st. More information for both events can be found on my website: Upcoming Events.

Survey
            In the coming weeks you will be receiving a brief survey asking questions about issues that concern you and the state. Please fill it out and send it back so that I may better represent your interests in Springfield.

The Date’s Been Set!
      As many of you know, your former Representative, Renee Kosel has retired after 18 years of honorable service to the residents of IL House District 37. Her office was located in Mokena.  We have moved the location to 11032 W Lincoln Hwy in Frankfort, right across the street from Panera Bread.

 Although we have  a new District  Office, no  additional State  Funds were spent  on furniture or  decor. We greatly  appreciate the  generosity of  those who donated  items and elbow grease to  help us move in!  Please join us Saturday, April 25th from 9:30am-12pm for our District Office Open House! We hope you will stop in for coffee, see our new space and say Hello!
Margo McDermed