To the Editor,

On January 28th, the House voted on an amendment to Senate Bill 2043. The appropriations bill, which strangely did not go through the Higher Education Appropriations Committee, appropriates $721 million dollars to the Monetary Assistance Program and the State’s community colleges without a funding source. The bill makes no appropriations to our struggling universities.

I was pleased with the forward thinking message of Governor Rauner’s address today and his resolve to stay the course in his efforts to change Illinois for the better. He spoke at length on the various ways that we can transform our state government and the way our state operates so that we can make it more efficient and effective. I join the Governor in calling for a substantive debate on these issues, many of which are sorely needed in this state. 

Despite the bitter divide caused by the budget impasse, I still believe compromise is possible and necessary to progressively address Illinois’ many problems.  Like Governor Rauner, I am ready and willing to come together and work cooperatively with both sides of the aisle to find comprehensive solutions. We need to make Illinois a better state for everyone to not only live in, but to thrive in. 
Governor Bruce Rauner signed Executive Order 16-01 yesterday to create the new Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT). The new state agency will transform and consolidate the state’s information technology functions into one agency.

While there has been some consolidation of IT services under CMS, each agency has been left in charge of developing its own technology solutions. That created a patchwork of systems that were often redundant, not interoperable, and vulnerable to cyber attacks. Currently, agencies often cannot share data easily to identify waste, save taxpayer money, and more efficiently serve businesses and residents.This new agency will be able to make state government more efficient and accountable while saving taxpayer money. 

"This initiative, in addition to last week's announcement of the new Advancing Development of Minority Entrepreneurship pilot program is another great step in the right direction for this state," Rep McDermed said. "We need to bring this state more fully in to the 21st century and enhance our competitiveness with other states."
I hope you all had a lovely holiday. Session is back this Wednesday and Thursday.

House off to a Stuttering Start
          House session was cancelled earlier in the month by Speaker Madigan who bafflingly cited a “lack of workload”. We'll meet for the first time in 2016 this week on January 27th, the same day that Governor Rauner is to give his State of the State address to the General Assembly. 2016 is an election year and the tendency by leadership can be to put off tough votes until after the primaries in March. The legislative calendar, as set by Speaker Madigan, does not have us in session regularly until April; we are only scheduled to be in Springfield for 2 days in January, 5 in February, and 3 in March. It’s disappointing given how much work we still need to do to compromise on the budget and necessary reforms. In the meantime, rank and file legislators have been at work drafting bills before the deadline last Friday. Generally in the second year of the term (99th General Assembly), fewer bills are filed.

After push-back from local governments around the country, the Department of Homeland Security acted on Friday to extend the Real ID compliance deadline until January 22, 2018. This means that your state driver’s license will still be a valid form of identification for boarding aircraft.

It’s been over ten years since the Real ID act was signed into law. Many states resisted and are still resisting the unfunded federal mandate. According to the Secretary of State’s office, Real ID implementation in Illinois will cost 57.3 million dollars over its first four years.

Read below for a full report from the Secretary of State's office: 

Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has signed on to cosponsor a bill which aims to help local governments curb their expenditures by requiring them to more tightly control travel expenses. House Bill 4379 would require local governments and school districts to regulate what kinds of expenses can be compensated, set maximum allowable reimbursements, and standardize their expense forms.

“Many local governments already have in place policies regarding such expenses,” Rep McDermed said. “This would simply require, across the board, all units to take similar measures. It’s a commonsense way to help minimize potentially frivolous spending. Encouraging good accounting practices for travel expense reimbursements can add up to real savings for our taxpayers."

HB 4379, filed by State Representative David McSweeney (R-Barrington), also sets forth minimum documentation requirements and forbids the reimbursement of entertainment expenses. The bill is awaiting committee assignment.
The Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates, led by Lt. Governor Sanguinetti and created early last year through executive order 15-15, has released their final report. The task force was created with the intention of tackling the dual problem of Illinois' bloated local government system and high property taxes. Illinois has more local units of government than any other state in the nation at 6,963 and the second highest effective property tax rate. The task force also considered Illinois' growing unfunded mandate burden, which the report labeled as "skyrocketing" over the past few decades.