“Pop Tax”
This Wednesday the Cook County Board is meeting to consider action on an ordinance to repeal the controversial Sweetened Beverage Tax. In the short time since its botched implementation, the tax has been met with an overwhelmingly negative reception and there has been much public backlash.

I have spoken with many constituents about the negative effect this burdensome tax is having on their families and small businesses. I am a co-sponsor on 3 pieces of legislation to address the issue. House Bill 4082 filed by Rep McAuliffe(R) and HB 4083 filed by Rep. Mussman(D) would immediately repeal the tax and prevent any home rule community from imposing a tax on sweetened beverages based on volume sold. House Bill 4084 filed by Rep. Breen (R) goes a step further and prevents the implementation of a tax based on weight or volume of any purchase in a home rule municipality.

State Representative McDermed was recently appointed as the lone House Republican member to serve on the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission. The commission was recently created when Governor Rauner signed House Bill 528 in to law in August. Rep. McDermed was the lead sponsor of the bill and shepherded the bill through the legislative process with unanimous votes in both the House and Senate.  

This task force will work together with the Illinois State Police to improve the processing and review of sexual assault evidence. It will bring together relevant actors from the state police, testing labs, local law enforcement, the court system, hospitals, and victim’s rights groups to discuss how to handle transfers of evidence, testing, payment for testing, and other important factors. The commission will also make sure that the courts, testing labs, and law enforcement are all adequately communicating with each other so that evidence does not get lost or end up creating a backlog crisis. 

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State Representative Margo McDermed served as Principal for a Day at a local middle school in the 37th district on Tuesday. Brian Horn, principal of Century Junior High School in Orland Park invited Rep. McDermed to serve as honorary school principle.

“Every time I get to serve as Principal for a Day, it's a treat. It is always a pleasure visiting our local schools and engaging with students,” said Rep. McDermed. “It really gives me a chance to see firsthand the great job our hardworking educators are doing and interacting with young students always inspires me as a legislator to ensure for them a quality education and bright future."

Rep. McDermed met with four classes of social studies students. She discussed the differences between state and federal government and went through the process of how a bill becomes a law. The students were eager to learn and asked questions about state government and current events.
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Senior Fair
This Thursday I am hosting my 3rd annual senior fair. This fair will feature numerous state and local vendors and will have helpful information for seniors and their caregivers. In addition, representatives from AT&T will put on a presentation about new legislation impacting land lines, new technology, and answer any and all questions.
The fair is from 10am-noon on October 5th at the Frankfort Square Park District at 7540 W. Braemar Lane in Frankfort. The fair will have refreshments and is free and open to the public.
Property Tax Townhall
On Wednesday October 18th at 6pm I am hosting a property tax townhall with an overview of the property tax system and the appeals process. A better understanding of the tax assessment process and the rights of homeowners can help you and your family save your hard earned money. The main focus and presentation of the townhall will be on property taxes, but I will be available to answer any and all questions regarding state government. The event is co-hosted with Frankfort Township Assessor Joseph Kral and will be held at Mokena Public Library. It is open to all residents of the 37th district and will have information on both Will and Cook Counties.
Earlier today Governor Rauner signed House Bill 40, a bill which will open up Medicaid and state employee health insurance coverage to elective abortions. State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) released the following statement in response:

"I voted against House Bill 40 and urged the Governor on multiple occasions not to sign the bill. I am incredibly disappointed in his decision to ignore the facts of this bill. This is not about women's health, but instead is a measure that will dramatically increase taxpayer funding of elective abortions. His decision to sign the bill goes against his promise to legislators and his commitment to fiscal responsibility. I still support Governor Rauner's agenda, but I am very upset and discouraged by his actions today."

Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) filed legislation last week to further separate political party interests and state interests. House Bill 4097 says that no member of the General Assembly shall concurrently serve as the chairperson for a statewide political party.

“For a state legislator, a public servant, to head a state political party and essentially hold the purse strings isn’t right,” Rep. McDermed said. “It is an unnecessary and improper consolidation of power. For those two roles to go hand in hand, it naturally invites conflicts of interest and possible corruption.”

According to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, among the 100 current Republican and Democratic State Party chairs in the nation, only nine also currently serve as state legislators. Of the nine, only two also serve in their party’s legislative leadership. In Illinois, House Speaker Michael Madigan has served as the Illinois Democratic Party’s Chair since 1998. He is the only statehouse chamber leader, House Speaker or Senate President, in the United States to also be the head of his state’s political party.

State party chairmen dictate the message and strategy of their party. Perhaps most importantly, they also organize party members and control millions of dollars in campaign funds. According to Illinois Sunshine, the Democratic Party of Illinois has $3.1 million in cash and the political committee Friends of Michael J. Madigan has $2.6 million on hand. As Speaker of the House, Madigan also controls the legislative process.

“The role of a state representative, especially a House Speaker, is to represent the best interests of the state, not engage in politics,” Rep. McDermed continued. “While I do believe Speaker Madigan has used his dual role to further cement his power in this state, it is not just about him. State party chairmen are focused on the next election and wherever possible we need to separate politics from governance.”

Cicero, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed toured the largest wastewater facility in the world on Friday. The Stickney Water Reclamation Plant (WRP) is one of seven wastewater treatment facilities owned and operated by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). The MWRD is the largest landowner in Cook County and in the top ten statewide.

“The operational capacity of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is a true feat of civil engineering,” Rep. McDermed said. “It’s not something most people like to consider, but what happens to the water that goes down our drains and our sewers is essential to a productive, clean community.”

The MWRD is the wastewater treatment and stormwater management agency for the City of Chicago and 125 Cook County communities. It was created by the General Assembly in the 1890s and was responsible for the infamous reversing of the Chicago River. Today it has an 883 square mile service area.

The average WRP in the state of Illinois treats one million gallons per day. At maximum capacity, the Stickney WRP can treat that volume in one minute. The plant can handle well over a billion gallons in wastewater a day.  
“The sincere steps they are taking at Stickney to increase efficiency and re-use are almost unheard of in government,” Rep. McDermed continued.

The MWRD is one of the 20 biggest users of electricity in the state, but is making great strides in their effort to turn their wastewater processes electricity neutral. Bio-solids and other residuals removed from the water are recycled and sold to outside contractors. 

Equifax, an Atlanta based credit-rating agency, suffered a security breach on July 29th that exposed sensitive information of millions of Americans. Such information included social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, birthdays, and addresses. It has been determined that 5.4 million Illinois residents have been affected by the breach. 

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The company has set up a website where you can check if your personal information was affected by the breach: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into the recent security breach, and called on Equifax to provide free credit freezes to all Illinois residents in the wake of the breach. Illinois residents should take the Equifax breach seriously and take steps to protect themselves from the possibility of identity theft:

  • You should put in place measures to protect and monitor your credit. Seriously consider placing a credit freeze on your credit reports with all 3 consumer reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax;
  • Regularly request your free credit reports, inspect them closely, and promptly dispute any unauthorized accounts;
  • Inspect all financial account statements closely and promptly dispute any unauthorized charges;
  • Consider placing alerts on your financial accounts so your financial institution alerts you when money above a pre-designated amount is withdrawn;
  • Beware of potential phishing emails; don't open any email messages or attachments from unknown senders and do not click on any unknown links. Fraudsters will frequently send coercive and misleading emails threatening account suspension or worse if sensitive information is not provided. Remember, businesses will never ask customers to verify account information via email. If in doubt, contact the business in question directly for verification and to report phishing emails; and
  • Be on the lookout for spoofed email addresses. Spoofed email addresses are those that make minor changes in the domain name, frequently changing the letter O to the number zero, or the lowercase letter l to the number one. Scrutinize all incoming email addresses to ensure that the sender is truly legitimate.

With questions on the data breach you can contact the Illinois Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1(866) 999-5630 or review the Identity Theft resources on her website.

Education Funding Reform Deal Tentatively Reached
Legislative leaders and the governor have reached an agreement on historic education funding reform.  The leaders from the House and Senate negotiated face-to-face last week and over the weekend. An agreement in principle was announced last Thursday. Under the agreement, which has not yet been approved by either house of the General Assembly, Illinois will adopt an “evidence-based” school funding formula. The House is scheduled to be in session today to consider passage of the proposal.

Rape Kit Tracking Legislation Signed in to Law
On Friday Governor Rauner signed my legislation, House Bill 528, in to law. Working with the Illinois State Police I spearheaded this legislation to help implement a rape kit tracking system in Illinois. It creates the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission, a group that will work to create the tracking system and develop the guidelines for sexual assault evidence tracking. The commission will bring together relevant stakeholders including state police, testing labs, local law enforcement, the court system, hospitals, and victim’s rights groups to discuss how to handle transfers of evidence, testing, payment for testing, and other important factors. It’s a great new law that will help limit human error, reduce the kit backlog, bring more offenders to justice, and empower sexual assault victims. Read more about the bill here.

Beagle Bill Finally Law
The legislation colloquially known as the ‘Beagle Freedom Bill’ was also signed by the Governor. The bill requires tax payer funded labs to work with animal rescue organizations to give cats and dogs used for research purposes a chance at adoption rather than being euthanized. Beagles are a popular breed for lab testing and research purposes because of their disposition and size. This is a bill I've helped work on for over a year and a half and I'm proud to see it finally become law. 

Pop tax Draws Ire and Legislative Response
On August 2 Cook County implemented a one cent per ounce Sweetened Beverage Tax.  Consumers now have to pay on average 67 percent more for a 2-liter of pop, 43 percent more for a gallon of juice or sweetened iced tea, and 29 percent more for a 12-pack. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently notified Cook County that portions of the tax were illegal and that the state could stand to lose more than $86 million in federal funding if the problems are not resolved. Additionally, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission has voiced its concerns with Cook County as well, stating that the new tax “may lead to practices that violate the Illinois Liquor Control Act.”
The tax has enraged many citizens and has even resulted in several lawsuits. Several House Republicans filed legislation to prevent any home rule county from imposing a tax on sweetened beverages based on volume sold and to repeal the Cook County ordinance.

Advanced Women’s Self Defense Class
Many who attended the previous classes I hosted over the summer requested a follow up class and I’m happy to inform you that one has been scheduled for September 18th at 6pm. It will be at St. Johns Church of Christ Community Center, 11000 2nd Street in Mokena. This is only available to those who have completed the introductory class. Contact my office to register. 
Springfield, IL… A bill spearheaded by State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) to empower sexual assault victims was signed in to law today by Governor Rauner.  House Bill 528 will improve the processing and review of sexual assault evidence by requiring the Illinois State Police (ISP) to create and operate a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system. 

HB 528 creates the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission, a group that will work to create the tracking system and develop the guidelines for sexual assault evidence tracking. The commission will bring together relevant stakeholders including state police, testing labs, local law enforcement, the court system, hospitals, and victim’s rights groups to discuss how to handle transfers of evidence, testing, payment for testing, and other important factors.

“With this law, that Illinois has made a positive step towards transparency and accountability in the testing process, which will help decrease the likelihood of error, lessen the evidence kit backlog, and bring more offenders to justice,” Rep. McDermed said. “I am proud to have sponsored this legislation and I am hopeful that this will bring some peace of mind to sexual assault victims who will be able to better monitor their case.”

According to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Illinois became the first state in the nation to a enact rape kit reform law in 2010. With this new law, Illinois continues to be a national leader on the issue and this legislation will serve as a model for the rest of the nation. HB528 passed both legislative chambers unanimously this past spring and received nationwide support from groups like the Joyful Heart Foundation and Test400k.

“On behalf of the Test400K "Just Track It" Campaign, we commend Representative Margo McDermed for championing this critical legislation, and for sending an important message to survivors of sexual violence that they matter. A rape kit is not simply a box, rather it represents hope that a survivor will get the justice they deserve after experiencing a deeply traumatizing crime. We hope this legislation will succeed in raising awareness of the unacceptable backlog of untested rape kits and how technology, such as automated rape kit tracking and survivor notification tracking systems, can help establish desperately needed accountability to survivors and make all of our communities safer," said Test400K Foundation Executive Director Deanne Benos. The Chicago-based Test400K Foundation was co-founded by Lifeway Foods CEO and Oscar-nominated "The Hunting Ground" Documentary Producer Julie Smolyansky, and advocates to eliminate the estimated backlog of 400,000 rape kits across our nation.

HB 528 is effective immediately. 

Notable Bill Signings
It’s that time of the year again. A flurry of activity surrounds the governor’s office as he issues his signatures on new laws or vetoes the bulk of the bills that have been sent to his office.

Donor Registry Bill
If you can drive, you can choose to be a donor. That’s the concept behind a new law, the Drive for Life Act. 16 and 17 year olds can now join the donor registry with the Secretary of State’s office. Parents and guardians still have the right to give or revoke consent until the donor turns 18.

IT Security 
Cyber security threats and hacks are popping up in the news more and more often. States are increasingly the targets of these attacks, and security threats pose a daily risk to the state’s ability to serve taxpayers and protect critical and confidential information. In response, House Bill 2371, requires all state employees to undergo annual cyber security training. This training will help employees understand the risks and learn the best practices to defend against these kinds of attacks. The training itself will be implemented by the Department of Innovation and Technology, a new agency created by Governor Rauner in 2015 to consolidate the state’s IT functions and update the state’s cyber security. Illinois is now the 15th state to adopt mandatory this kind of awareness training for employees.

Procurement Reform
Governor Rauner signed Senate Bill 8, a bipartisan bill that makes the state procurement process more efficient and transparent, thus saving money for Illinois taxpayers. Specifically, it eliminates unnecessary administrative delays for state universities. The bill also permits Illinois to enter into joint purchasing agreements with other units of government, allowing state and local government entities to save money because of their increased purchasing power.

Breaking Down Senate Bill 1’s Amendatory Veto
On May 31st the Illinois House passed Senate Bill 1 with the bare minimum number of votes necessary, 60. A parliamentary hold was placed on the bill so that it did not have to be sent to the Governor. When the budget was passed it included a provision that requires the state to implement an evidence based funding formula or schools cannot recieve any state money. To be clear, the issue with Senate Bill 1 has never been the use of an evidence based model, which is widely accepted as the right shift for the state school funding formula. The issue has always been an unfair allocation of additional funds to CPS. Under SB1 there is an additional $778 million invested in K–12 education, of which CPS receives $495 million. This means that CPS will receive 64% of all new money despite having only 19% of the students in Illinois. The breakdown of CPS dollars is as follows: $221M for pensions, $202M Block Grant, and $72M for New Tier Funding. SB 1 essentially buries CPS pension reform in the school code, not in the state pension code where it belongs.
After two months, the procedural hold place on Senate Bill 1 by the Democrats was lifted and the bill was finally sent to the Governor last week. Shortly thereafter he issued his anticipated amendatory veto. 
There are three options now:
1) Pass the amendatory veto with a three-fifths (71 votes in the House) vote in both chambers 
2) Override the governor's veto with a three-fifths vote in both chambers
3) Allow the bill to die and pass new legislation for school funding
The first set of school payments are scheduled for Aug. 10, so the legislature must take action as soon as possible. However, I have yet to see movement in either the Senate or the House to call members down to Springfield to take urgent action.
The governor’s amendatory veto makes the following changes to ensure an adequate and equitable school funding formula:
  • Maintains a per-district hold harmless until the 2020-2021 school year, and then moves to a per-pupil hold harmless based on a three-year rolling average of enrollment.
  • Removes the minimum funding requirement. While the governor is committed to ensuring that the legislature satisfies its duty to fund schools, the proposed trigger of one percent of the overall adequacy target plus $93 million artificially inflates the minimum funding number and jeopardizes Tier II funding.
  • Removes the Chicago block grant from the funding formula.
  • Removes both Chicago Public Schools pension considerations from the formula: the normal cost pick-up and the unfunded liability deduction. 
  • Reintegrates the normal cost pick-up for Chicago Public Schools into the Pension Code where it belongs, and finally begins to treat Chicago like all other districts with regards to the State’s relationship with its teachers’ pensions.
  • Eliminates the PTELL and TIF equalized assessed value subsidies that allow districts to continue under-reporting property wealth.
  • Removes the escalators throughout the bill that automatically increase costs.
  • Retains the floor for the regionalization factor, for the purposes of equity, and adds a cap, for the purposes of adequacy.

Frankfort, IL…  Area residents are encouraged to sign-up to donate blood at an upcoming Blood Drive to be held at 11032 W Lincoln Hwy in Frankfort on Wednesday August 9th from 3:30-7:30pm. This is the 3rd annual blood drive sponsored by State Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) in conjunction with Heartland Blood Centers. Those interested in donating blood should call Rep. McDermed’s office to schedule an appointment at (815) 277-2079 or visit heartlandbc.org.

Blood donation is quick, easy, and has a tremendous impact,” Rep. McDermed said. “I encourage local residents to sign-up today to come out for a great cause and save lives.”

The Chicago Tribune and other outlets have reported on the unprecedented blood shortage this summer. Although during the summer blood banks normally see a downturn in donations and there is usually an uptick in accidents needing blood bags, this year’s shortage is reportedly much worse than in years past.  

“We can’t manufacture blood; lives are on the line when blood centers and hospitals see donation shortages like the one they’re currently experiencing,” Rep. McDermed continued. “I urge my constituents to sign up for an appointment, at this blood drive or any other.”

More than 500 donations are needed daily to save patient lives and donating one unit of blood can help save up to 3 lives. Heartland works with 63 Illinois hospitals and commits to donating all the blood they collect to local area hospitals.

Please call Rep. McDermed’s office with any questions at (815) 277-2079. Walk-ins are accepted, but scheduling an appointment is preferred.
From the ILHouseGOP Caucus Blog:

Where would you rather your hard earn tax money be directed, into the classroom for kids or to prop up Chicago’s mismanaged pension system?

Image result for classroomA new 32% income tax increase just went into effect on July 1 and Chicago politicians want to use it to bail out a pension system they failed to fund instead of using it to educate children across the state. The once bipartisan SB1 was a plan that would have equitably funded all schools in Illinois, ensuring each and every child was treated fairly. However in the waning moments of regular session, Chicago interests hijacked the bill and earmarked some of the money for the City of Chicago. 

An effort to get a clean bipartisan equitable funding formula back on track emerged with HB 4069. Every district is treated fairly and benefits at the highest level under HB 4069. To see how your schools benefit click here.
Below are some updates on upcoming events I am hosting in the district: 

Second Senior Driving Seminar
20170606_103804_1496764308252.jpegDue to the overwhelming response we received to our senior driving seminar last month, my office worked with the Secretary of State’s office to schedule another as soon as we could. Our second seminar will be next Tuesday July 25th at the Pipe Fitters Local 597, 10850 W. 187th St. in Mokena at 10am. With this new venue we can accommodate more people, but unfortunately we cannot provide any food, only water. We have attempted to reach out to everyone who put themselves on the waiting list for the earlier seminar. If you haven’t heard from us or you would like to sign up for this great opportunity to relearn the rules of the road, please call my office.

Illinois Finally Has a Budget, But at High Cost
         After weeks of being in Springfield with little progress, everything came to a head last weekend. On the last day of the fiscal year, negotiators met late in to the evening and a bipartisan deal seemed within grasp. However on Saturday, the start the new fiscal year, Speaker Madigan announced that no votes would occur over the weekend. This was surprising and drew a vocal response on the House floor from legislators on both sides of the aisle who wanted to see a deal done and didn’t appreciate the break in urgency implied by the Speaker’s words. Shortly thereafter in a statement to the press, the Speaker pulled a 180 and announced a vote on a budget for the next day. Negotiations on other reforms to repair the state stalled. On Sunday we were asked to vote on hundreds of pages of legislation just hours after it was filed. With some Republican support, the General Assembly passed and then overrode the Governor’s veto on both a budget and a tax increase. Illinois now has a budget for the first time in over 2 years, but little else. You can read my op-ed on why I voted no, here
          When the temporary income tax ended in 2015 with no budget in place, spending continued at the FY15 level primarily due to court orders, consent decrees and continuing appropriations. As a result, our state has been overspending revenue for years at around $39 billion. This budget spends $36 billion, a $3 billion cut, but well above the $32 million the state has been taking in over past years. The budget relies on increasing income taxes to 4.95% for individuals and 7% for businesses as well as provisions for borrowing billions to pay down the historically high bill backlog.
           A primary reason for so many to sign a budget, any budget, was to prevent the state from being labeled as junk by investor services. Signs from Moody’s say that Illinois is still at risk for a downgrade because we did not do enough to address Illinois’ main credit problems; our astronomical pension obligations and substantial bill backlog. 
In an Op-Ed, State Representative Margo McDermed explains her "No" vote on the tax increase and budget bills brought forth by the majority Democrats:

During the debate, many claimed that their votes to raise taxes and end the budget impasse would be the biggest vote of their lifetime. They’re right, but many for the wrong reasons. 

The process by which these bills came to the floor was rushed, unfair, and lacked transparency. It’s a process we’ve seen too often in Illinois government, a process made famous by former State Representative Bost’s outburst on the House floor and further proof that Madigan has no interest in playing fair or negotiating in good faith. We were told we had to vote on Sunday because the state couldn’t possibly afford another day of negotiations on pension reform and other reforms. And yet the vote to seal the deal had to wait days because so many members left town. 

Illinois’ current path is untenable. We hold 10% of the entire nation’s pension debt. We’ve got some of the highest property taxes in the nation. We’re losing population at concerning rates and have still not returned to the level of jobs we had in 2000. 

More than that our resident are tired. They're tired of Illinois being a national laughing stock. They’re tired of the mismanagement of their money by the state legislature and their local governments. They’re tired of short sighted, selfish politicians. 

We cannot in good conscience reach even further in to the pockets of overburdened constituents and offer them nothing in return. Nothing to convince people to stay and raise their families here with confidence in our state’s future. They deserve better than a tax increase and a booby trapped budget. 

After two years of this impasse, the state needs the stability of a budget. But more than that it needs substantive change. This move undercuts the momentum of negotiations on the issues that no one wants to tackle, but the ones that we must. We voted on a budget, but we didn't vote on any of our underlying problems and now the legislature goes home. When we return remains unclear.  

Legislators and local governments alike must remember that the money it spends comes from the hardworking men and women of this state. We need to earn back their trust. The veto is overridden and Illinois has a budget for the first time in two years, but the real work is not done. Not even close.
Springfield, IL – State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) issued the following statement in response to the Illinois House of Representatives passage of House Democrat revenue and spending bills:

"Today House Democrats had the gall to say that Illinois can’t afford to wait anymore and we need to act now. If they were sincere they would have filed and voted on their budget and revenues months ago, not this afternoon. We need to fix this state’s finances and end this budget impasse. While that may require revenue, we cannot in good conscience reach even further in to the pockets of Illinois taxpayers and offer them nothing in return. No guarantees that their money will be spent wisely, no guarantees that legislators are serious about tackling Illinois’ longstanding structural problems, and no guarantees that negotiations on important issues like property taxes and pension reform will continue with sincerity and urgency. My constituents deserve better. Illinois deserves better."

State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) is promoting legislation that will result in increased and fair education funding for all. House Bill 4069, like Senate Bill 1, utilizes the evidence based funding formula that ensures all school districts will receive more money. However HB4069 does not disproportionately give an advantage to Chicago Public Schools.

You can see the difference between the two bills on schools in the 37th district below:

The Illinois House of Representatives recently held a Committee of the Whole to discuss a statewide property tax freeze. State Representative Margo McDermed spoke out on the floor in support. The three panels of witnesses brought in to discuss the proposal were largely opposed to the idea. She directed her comments to these opponents:

Shortly before the session adjourned, Rep. McDermed sat down with Comcast Newsmakers in the capitol to discuss the budget and getting things done:

School funding reform is an issue important to all Illinois residents, whether you have children or not. The Illinois Constitution says that the state government must provide a majority of the funding for public schools. Instead the state only provides around 24%, with the rest coming from federal funds and property taxes. This dereliction of constitutional duty is a big reason why Illinois property taxes are so high.

Over a year ago, Governor Rauner commissioned a bipartisan group to study how we can fix Illinois’ broken school funding system. The conclusions of that group formed the basis for a number of bills filed in the House and Senate. Bipartisan negotiations occurred to rectify the bills. Unfortunately, by the time a bill got to the House floor for a vote it had been co-opted by Chicago legislators. 

SB 1 would send nearly 70 percent of the new K-12 funding in FY18 to CPS. The other 851 Illinois school districts would receive just 30 percent of the new funds, despite have 77 percent of total students. School funding reform cannot help a broken Chicago school system at the expense of the rest of the state. I could not and will not support last minute legislation that supports further inequity in the system.

This is yet another in a long line of promising solutions stalled or corrupted by political games.

Regardless of what happens with school funding reform, the state as a whole needs to put more money towards our schools. Even though more money has been directed towards K-12 and early education since Governor Rauner took office, this is not something we can reasonably accomplish while this budget impasse continues.

I will continue to work with my colleagues, but the games have to stop. Illinois can’t move forward without the participation of both sides of the aisle. We need to focus on bipartisan solutions, not 2018. Too much is at stake. 

Margo McDermed
State Representative, 37th District
The House has been in continuous session “until the call of the chair” (Speaker Madigan) since May 31st. The fiscal year ends on June 30th and yet no session has been called or planned yet for the month of June.

Senate Bill 1
              School funding reform is an issue that has been buzzing a lot around Springfield over the past few years. It is fully accepted by both parties that the current formula is broken and we need a change. Governor Rauner’s bipartisan commission to study the issue produced a blue print for a new evidence based funding model. The evidence-based funding model is significant to Illinois for many reasons, not the least of which is that it was specifically designed to drive much-needed funding to school districts that are the farthest away from adequacy.
               On the final day of the scheduled spring session, House Democrats co-opted and amended a new formula, Senate Bill 1, to provide Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with a bailout at the expense of the rest of the state’s public schools. SB 1 would cost approximately $700 million in new state dollars to implement in FY18. Not only is that amount unachievable given the fiscal crisis facing Illinois, but CPS would receive nearly $500 million or 70 percent of the new funding. The other 851 Illinois school districts would receive just $200 million or 30 percent of the new funds, despite have 77 percent of total students.
State Rep Margo McDermed is proud to announce her third annual Summer reading club. This year's theme is "Story Under the Sea"

"I'm pleased to continue with this successful program that encourages students to keep their minds active by reading and learning during their summer break." Rep. McDermed said.

Pamphlets were distributed recently to area schools. They are also available at local libraries or at Rep. McDermed's District Office. Participation in this program can overlap with any other summer reading program offered. Participating students have until August 11th to read ten books. Students who complete this challenge will be invited to an ice cream party. Attendees of the party will receive a certificate from the Illinois House of Representatives and information on college savings programs offered through the State of Illinois.

If you would like a digital copy of Rep, McDermed's reading club pamphlet, click here.
The House and Senate went late in to the evening over the last two days to no avail. The May 31st session deadline has come and gone yet again without a budget.
This special Thursday end of session edition of the Dispatch is a long one, so I’ve broken it down to the bad news, the good news, and the local news:

Bad News
Senate Passes Tax Hike Budget
Last week Senate Democrats passed a $37.7 billion dollar budget with $5.4 billion dollars in tax increases. The new taxes included a 32% income tax hike, from 3.75% to 4.99%. The Senate came as close as they could to a deal on the major issues that made up the grand bargain, but then gave up and essentially punted the issue to the House, which refused to deal with many of them, including the budget. 

Budget Still Nowhere to be Seen in House
The normal session deadline (where the requirement for bill passage is only 60 votes) ended last night with a total of 480 bill passing both chambers. 292 originated from the House and 188 from the Senate. However, before 1pm on the last day of session, House Leadership called for a continuous session throughout the summer, thus making it clear that no budget bills would be debated or called for a vote. A few weeks ago I joined my colleagues in writing to Attorney General Lisa Madigan requesting that she use her authority to force the House to adopt a revenue estimate. Knowing how much we have to spend is an important step in crafting a budget and something that has been absent during my time in office. The House spent more time in session over the last 3 days than in the last three weeks combined. But none of that floor discussion touched on a revenue estimate or the budget. Believe it or not, instead we dealt with things like a bill to require truth in advertising for catfish at restaurants and a bill to reign in feral cat populations. 
Springfield, IL... For the second year in a row the Illinois General Assembly has adjourned without sending Governor Rauner a budget. State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has released the following statement in response to this dereliction of duty:

"I took office at the same time as the Governor. I have been a firsthand witness to the kind of political games being played over the budget. Time and time again the House has snubbed its constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget or even adopt a revenue estimate on which to base that budget. Speaker Madigan has said that we will hold hearings on the budget in June and I have to wonder when he finally realized that the House needs to start work on a balanced budget. Should the Speaker be interested in calling us back to Springfield to work and negotiate to try and rectify this situation before the end of the fiscal year, I stand ready and willing."
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Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) received unanimous support in Springfield for her measure to empower sexual assault victims. House Bill 528 requires the Illinois State Police (ISP) to create and operate a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system. It also creates a commission to help ISP to develop the guidelines related to the tracking system. HB 528 passed the Senate on May 29th on a 55-0 vote. It passed the House on March 14th on a 107-0 vote. 

“The current handling of sexual assault evidence is rife with confusion and human error,” Rep. McDermed said. “I applaud the steps ISP was already taking to make this process easier and more effective for sexual assault victims, but we need to do better.”

After a number of untested rape kits were found in local law enforcement evidence rooms, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law in 2011 to require local law enforcement agencies to send thousands of untested rape kits to the state crime lab run by ISP. This was a step in the right direction for crimes that may have gone uninvestigated, but created other problems and muddled the chain of custody.

“The process of collecting these kits is difficult enough, we owe it to these victims to give them clarity on the status of their case,” Rep. McDermed continued. “No rape kit should go untested and no victim should go without critical information pertaining to their assault.”

A critical part of ensuring justice for victims of sexual assault is the proper handling, and transparency in the processing, of evidence kits. HB 528 creates the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission, a group that will work with ISP to create and develop the tracking system. The bill brings together relevant actors from the state police, testing labs, local law enforcement, the court system, hospitals, and victim’s rights groups to discuss how to handle transfers of evidence, testing, payment for testing, and other important factors.

“Transparency and accountability in the evidence process is key to decreasing the likelihood of error, lessening the state’s rape kit backlog, and bringing more offenders to justice,” stated Rep. McDermed.

The bill received widespread support from across the state and the nation, including the Joyful Heart Foundation. HB 528 will next be sent to the Governor who is expected to sign it in to law.

Last week in Springfield produced little from the House. I’ve spoken out in the past on the floor about how we have a tendency to shirk our toughest priorities or leave them until the last minute to the detriment of taxpayers. May 31st is just days away, we cannot afford to waste any more time. You can listen to a recent speech I made here.

Bill Backlog Grows, Revenue Estimate Needed
          The state’s unpaid bill backlog has now topped $14 billion. In addition we’re paying more than $800 million in interest on these bills. Every day without a budget, the State pays out $17 million more than we take in.
           Both the Constitution and state law require the General Assembly to adopt a revenue estimate on which to base a balanced budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, an action which legislators have failed to take in either of the past two years and haven’t yet done for the coming fiscal year. I joined Representative Keith Wheeler and others in signing a letter to Attorney General Lisa Madigan asking her to intervene and force legislators to comply with this requirement.
          A revenue estimate is a vital part of the state budget process. We can’t get our finances under control if we don’t know how much we have to spend.

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In February, State Representative Margo McDermed asked constituents to take an online survey of state and local issues. The 10 question survey yielded a number of results from throughout the district. While most of the questions were multiple choice, other questions allowed respondents to write in their own specific concerns about the state. Many of those responses received advocated for term limits, breaking House Speaker Madigan's hold on the state, pension reform, protecting our most vulnerable and seniors, and a balanced budget. 

Responses from the survey make it clear that the main issues on the mind of residents in the 37th district are the budget, the state's economy, property taxes, and education. 

The multiple choice results are as follows:

Image result for senior driversNew Lenox, IL … State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) is pleased to offer a Senior Driving Seminar in collaboration with the Illinois Secretary of State. The two hour class is offered in June and will give senior citizens an opportunity to refresh their memory for the written driving test when renewing their licenses. The seminar is taught by an instructor from the Secretary of State’s Office and includes an extensive overview of the contents of the Rules of the Road booklet and sample test. The seminar is free of charge.

“I know how important it is for seniors to maintain their independence and being able to drive is an important part of that. For good reason the Illinois Secretary of State’s office has additional requirements and measures for senior drivers,” explained Rep. McDermed. “I invite any and all senior citizens to these driving seminars as I know they will benefit greatly from this refresher course.” 

Illinois drivers can renew their licenses for 4 years between ages 69 and 80. Until the age of 86 licenses drivers can renew for 2 years and after 87 years the license needs to be renewed annually. Drivers who are 75 years of age or older at the time their current driver license expires are generally required to renew their license in person at a local DMV. All drivers have to take a vision test, but in addition, drivers will be asked to take a written knowledge test every 8 years, unless they have no traffic violations. Drivers over 75 years have to take a road test at the time of renewal.

WHAT: FREE Senior Driving Seminar 
WHEN: Tuesday, June 6th at 10am
WHERE: New Lenox Police Department, 200 Veterans Pkwy, New Lenox 

If you have any questions or would like to attend, please RSVP by calling Rep. McDermed’s office at (815) 277-2079.