Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced recently that, as a result of the budget impasse, his office will suspend mailing out vehicle registration renewal reminders to the public.

In a press release making the announcement, White noted that suspending this service will save approximately $450,000 per month. It will allow his office to prolong the ability to mail vehicle registration renewal stickers, titles and license plates to vehicle owners for a few months longer before the postage account is depleted.

If you want to receive a reminder, sign up to receive electronic notices through the Secretary of State’s website. While those who receive emailed vehicle registration renewal notices via email will continue to have access to a pin number needed to renew their sticker online, those who do not sign up for the electronic alerts will now have to renew their vehicle stickers in person at a Secretary of State office.
The House was in session last week, but little movement was made on the substantial issues. Speaker Madigan informed the chamber that the next session dates will be October 20th and November 10th.

In Memoriam
         State Representative Esther Golar passed away last Monday. Many members shared fond memories of her on the House floor while we were in session on Thursday. She was praised for being passionate, kind, and for continuing to attend session despite her declining health. The House adopted HR 785 as a memorial resolution and expression of mourning for her death.

Lincoln Way
        Last night I had a townhall to listen to the concerns of many parents about the management of the Lincoln Way School District and the closing of Lincoln Way North. As I’ve said before, the power to open/close a school and to budget for the district belongs exclusively to school boards and the state has little, if any, say in the matter. Still, I’m happy we had this forum to discuss what happened, school board oversight, and what I as a state legislator might be able to propose to prevent future situations like this moving forward.

Early Intervention
          Comptroller Leslie Munger announced that DHS and her office, concerned about early intervention programs slipping through the cracks without a budget in place, determined that Early Intervention services were covered by recent judicial consent decrees and immediately began setting up the processes for making payments to providers. As I’ve mentioned before, significant portions of the state spending is being doled out despite the state not having a formal budget in place. However, Early Intervention providers, who work on development strategies with disabled infants and toddlers, were the latest group in a growing list of organizations to be penalized by the ramifications of the budget impasse that were not yet covered.

Beagle Bill
          I filed a bill last week, HB 4297, which would create the Research Dogs and Cats Adoption Act. It would require state funded higher education institutions or research facilities associated with state higher education institutions to offer dogs and cats used in their research efforts to animal rescue organizations for adoption before considering euthanasia. Similar bills in other states have been known as the ‘Beagle Freedom Bill’ because Beagles are commonly used research dogs. A good friend of mine has one of these rescue Beagles and she encouraged me to take up this cause.

Final Pizza Townhall
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          I’ve enjoyed speaking with many constituents over the last few weeks about the issues in Springfield and in the district. If you haven’t been able to make one yet, please consider joining me this Sunday, October 4th at 6pm in New Lenox for my final pizza townhall. We will be at Chicago Dough Company at 1080 E Lincoln Hwy.

Budget Still at an Impasse
          The House session last week did not show any signs of progress on the budget. Negotiations and reasonable bills to grow the state, reform bills, gaming bills, or bills to apply new fees and taxes aren’t getting any traction. Only bills to increase spending beyond anticipated revenue receive committee hearings and floor debate. On Thursday, Democrats on the House Executive Committee passed a $3.8 billion spending bill, SB2046, without specifying a funding source for the money to pay for it. The full House did not take up SB 2046 for debate last week, and did not discuss an overall spending plan or budget agreement. Instead there was another Committee of the Whole to discuss the need for mental health programs and police training.
          The House is not in session again until October 20th and conversations between our state leaders have stopped. We need to break the deadlock and the best way to do so is to contact legislative leaders who decide the calendar and the governor. I recently wrote a letter to the editor encouraging citizens to speak up; you can read it here.

PARCC
         The 2014-15 school year was the first school year of attempted full implementation of the PARCC testing system throughout Illinois, a test that utilizes the Common Core standards. Last week, State Superintendent, Tony Smith, released some figures on the results, many of which are “raw numbers” at this point that have not yet been sorted by individual school or rebalanced for social and demographic weighting factors. The numbers released also did not include tests taken by pen and paper, which was about 25% of test takers. The preliminary results show less than 4 in 10 Illinois students met or exceeded grade level expectations in Math and English.

State Employee Health Insurance
          CMS recently announced that without a budget, they lack the appropriations and legal authority to make payments to providers of state employee health insurance. The issue has just now come to a head because CMS was still paying claims from the last fiscal year. The first group of health insurance plans to be affected are self-insured plans often utilized by retirees. CMS stated that while health care payments for workers, retirees, and their families would be paid as long as possible, stoppage of payments would presumably cause a significant percentage of health care professionals to ask for alternate pathways of compensation, including asking employees to pay cash upfront for their healthcare.

Senior Fair
         On October 15th I will be holding a senior fair from 10am-Noon. Local and state senior service providers will be on hand to share tips, information, and services. The expo will be in the Mokena Park District at The Oaks, 10925 W. La Porte Rd in Mokena.
Comptroller, DHS agree EI services fall under active consent decree 

Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger announced Wednesday that her office is setting up accounts and will immediately begin making payments to Early Intervention providers as soon as it receives vouchers from the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Munger learned from her Nonprofit Advisory Council last week that Early Intervention services were "slipping through the cracks" of consent decrees requiring payments during the budget impasse, and she contacted DHS officials to discuss what payment options were available. After looking more closely at several active consent decrees, DHS and the Comptroller agreed that Early Intervention services were covered and they immediately began setting up the processes for making payments to providers.

Read more on the caucus blog.

To the editor,

We're in our third month now without a budget and many are speculating that there's a lack of compromise in sight. Despite this the majority of state government is still operating, with the Comptroller’s office estimating overspending by $300 million a month due to the continuation of appropriations through consent decrees, agreements and court orders.

Each week since adjournment I have traveled to Springfield ready to arrive at a solution, but given the top-heavy nature of our legislative system, that solution has yet to come.  In the House, legislation is prohibited from coming to the floor unless approved by the Democratic Speaker who holds a supermajority in the chamber.  A similar problem faces my colleagues in the Senate.

And while rank and file members such as myself have tried to impress upon our chamber’s leaders the urgency of the situation and the necessity that they negotiate with the Governor on his reform agenda, these calls have fallen on deaf ears. There continues to be an insistence by the Democrat majority in Illinois that unchecked spending should continue with absolutely no changes to the way Illinois operates.

There is no problem, they say, we just need more revenue. I believe the vast majority of Illinoisans recognize that this isn’t the case.  Illinois needs reform before new revenues should even be considered, and that is the sticking point.

If you agree that Illinois needs reform before taxes are increased, then get engaged. I have a petition on my website,www.repmcdermed.com, that you can sign. Write a letter to the editor. Tell your friends on social media that Illinois needs reform.

Our colleges, service providers and state vendors are stuck in a cycle of fiscal uncertainty. That’s not fair, but neither is asking taxpayers to pay more without fundamental changes to the way Illinois does business. This impasse needs to be solved quickly, but it must be done with an eye towards the future.

Margo McDermed
State Representative 37th District
New Lenox, IL... State Representative Margo McDermed spoke on Thursday with the New Lenox Chamber of Commerce. She gave a 'State of the State' update as a part of their luncheon series. She spoke about what's going on in Springfield and took questions from the crowd. 

Rep McDermed talked about the challenges of being a freshman representative and adjusting to political life. She said she discovered that there is a big difference between running on the issues and actually being in office. She said it has been a learning curve discovering all of the other parts the job entails, such as administrative duties. 

Rep McDermed was asked about the contentious environment down in Springfield. She explained that there are productive things being done in a bipartisan manner, leading to such omnibus reform minded bills addressing the heroin crisis and police reform. Things only get contentious when the debate turns to certain topics and the budget. However a number of good bipartisan bills that were passed this year are proof there's room to compromise and work together to solve the tougher issues.  
Chicago, IL... State Representative Margo McDermed took part in a press conference led by fellow Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) today. His proposal, House Resolution 752, urges Speaker Madigan and the Chairperson of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee to hold a series of hearings on how the state could potentially approach a lump sum exchange option with state retirees. This buyout option would be available to current and future annuitants and could potentially net the state billions in long term savings. Retirees would benefit by having more control over their retirement assets. 

The resolution calls for hearings to better understand the potential outcomes of such a pension exchange proposal and potential barriers to its implementation, as well as its constitutionality.

Rep. McDermed praised the merit of the idea as potentially a win-win situation for retirees and the state. She also said that the proposal deserves real consideration in the House.


Chicago, IL… Today Governor Rauner signed into law legislation which will include severance and settlement agreements that use public funds under the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. Representative McDermed’s House Bill 303 is a much needed win for government transparency.

Similar legislation, prompted as a response to the Metra scandal in 2013, previously stalled in the State Senate. A second scandalous six figure severance package that was awarded this past year to the outgoing president at the College of DuPage renewed calls for reform to such ‘golden parachutes’.
“This important piece of legislation has been a long time coming and is the culmination of years of hard work by both former Representative Kosel and myself. I want to thank Senator Althoff for all her work in helping get this bill through the Senate” Rep McDermed said. “This legislation will help us to make sure that we are shining a light on government spending and agreements entered in to by public bodies. The greater the transparency in government, the greater the accountability.”

House Bill 303 near unanimously sailed through both legislative chambers this past spring. 


Hope you ended your summer on a high note and had a lovely holiday weekend!

House Votes on Vetoes
        The House has passed 302 bills this year. Governor Rauner has thus far signed 267 while vetoing 21. He used his amendatory veto powers on another 10. An amendatory veto is when the governor sends the bill back to chamber from which it originated with a few recommended changes. That chamber can either accept the changes with a simple majority vote or attempt to override the veto which requires a 3/5ths vote.
       This past week, instead of considering the governor’s proposed changes, the House voted on overrides to the governor’s amendatory vetoes. Only one override was successful, House Bill 1. Governor Rauner used his amendatory veto on the Medicaid funding portion in the bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation to address the state heroin crisis. The Governor’s office argued that the State's Medicaid programs already cover multiple forms of medication necessary to treat alcohol and opioid dependence and the new changes in the proposed bill would limit the state's ability to contain rising costs at a time when the State is facing unprecedented fiscal difficulties. Opponents of his amendatory veto said that the Governor’s changes hurt the overall bill and that the biggest issue with heroin addiction is that people can’t afford treatment. The House overwhelmingly voted to support the bill as it originally passed the chamber.

SB1229
        The override for the total veto of Senate Bill 1229 also came up for a vote last week. The governor vetoed this bill over serious reservations about potentially handing a significant portion of the budget over to an unelected arbitrator who wouldn’t be accountable to taxpayers. After a long, contentious debate on the floor (over 2 hours), ultimately the bill did not receive the necessary votes (3/5ths) to go in effect despite the governor’s veto.
        A good sign that negotiations between AFSCME and Governor Rauner can move forward in good faith, the administration and the Teamsters announced a new 4 year contract. 4,600 State employees are covered by the new agreement and it included concessions from both sides. Key features of the new contract include a four-year wage freeze, maintenance of existing health care benefits, and a reduction in the number of unused vacation days that future new State hires in Teamster-organized work spaces will be allowed to carry over.

Comptroller Struggling to Make Payments
       Many providers of mandated state financed services report that despite court order, they are not being paid. The Comptroller’s office has been struggling to make payments mandated by judges while balancing all of the state’s other obligatory payments (i.e debt/pensions). The Comptroller’s office has warned that due to the state’s cash flow problems, every day is an evaluation of which payments can be made based on the cash on hand and not all payments can be met on specific days.
       As I mentioned in my last newsletter, through court orders and administrative actions, almost 90% of the budget has been decided on despite the legislature not having implemented a budget. Without legislative action we are on a dangerous trend towards needing more revenue. The Comptroller’s office estimates the state is operating around $300 million in deficit spending a month to meet its mandatory payments.
The state’s unpaid bill backlog currently sits at just under $5.3 billion dollars, the result of underfunding budgets and relying on borrowing. Illinois delays payments of bills from vendors, service providers, as well as money owed to local units of government and for employee health insurance to help it manage cash flow. The Governor and the Comptroller have both made pledges to pay it down, but in the absence of a budget and in light of both court orders and legislative decisions to fund the budget piece by piece, the office is struggling to manage the state’s bills as is.

Budget Update
       Moody’s, the global bond rating service, in a report published last Monday warned of consequences if the budget stalemate is not resolved soon. Changes in the debt rating of Illinois affect interest rates that must be paid by Illinois taxpayers. Rating agencies such as Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings have given Illinois the lowest debt rating of any US state. The House again failed to take up the issue of the budget while in session last Tuesday and unfortunately, the House isn’t in session again until September 24th.

Pizza Townhalls
       It’s an unprecedented and difficult time in Springfield right now. To help keep residents informed, I’ll be hosting a series of informal town halls in the coming weeks. These meet n’ greet style events will be held at pizza places throughout the district. As I am still fairly new to the job, it will be a way of introducing myself to residents. It will also provide a forum for people to talk about what is going on in the district and down in Springfield. I encourage you to come with questions, comments, or concerns and partake in one of these fun, relaxed, FREE events.

The townhalls will be on Sundays at 6pm on the following dates:
        September 13th at Aurelio’s at 16529 W 159th St in Lockport
        September 20th at Beggars Pizza at 9515 W 191st St. in Mokena
        September 27th at Little Joe’s Pizza at 20805 South La Grange Rd in Frankfort
        October 4th at Chicago Dough Company at 1080 E Lincoln Hwy in New Lenox
Veto season is getting underway, Governor Rauner has thus far vetoed 21 House Bills and amended through his veto power another 10. Here's some helpful information on the process 

The Illinois Constitution provides the Governor with four possible veto alternatives, below is a brief description of each:

Total Veto
The Governor can veto an entire bill by returning it with his objections to the chamber in which it originated. The General Assembly can override this veto by a vote of three-fifths of the members elected to each chamber.

The State of Illinois is facing a crisis of epic proportions. The situation in Springfield is unlike anything we have ever seen. While I have been out and about in my district, I can see that many people still have questions and concerns.

To help keep residents informed, I’ll be hosting a series of informal town halls. The best part is that these meet n’ greet style events will be held at pizza places throughout the district. It will be my way of introducing myself to residents and provide a forum for people to talk about what is going on in the district and down in Springfield. The events will be held on Sundays at 6pm on the following dates:

September 13th at Aurelio’s at 16529 W 159th St in Lockport
September 20th at Beggars Pizza at 9515 W 191st St. in Mokena 
September 27th at Little Joe’s Pizza at 20805 South La Grange Rd in Frankfort
October 4th at Chicago Dough Company at 1080 E Lincoln Hwy in New Lenox 

I encourage anyone with questions, comments, or concerns to partake in one of these fun, relaxed, FREE events!  I look forward to seeing you, hearing your thoughts, and answering your questions.

            Sincerely,
            Margo McDermed