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."
Image result for rape kit
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.

Image result for survey results
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.
Before the House left Springfield for it's most recent break, instead of focusing on the budget, House Democrats passed bills that collectively spent $295 million dollars. In Springfield this week the House spent its time passing 57 House Resolutions. No bills were passed and no discussions were held on pension reform, the budget, property tax reform, or many of the other important issues facing this state. 

Listen to Rep. McDermed on the House Floor calling on her fellow representatives to get down to business, do their jobs, and address the real issues hurting Illinois:

State Representative McDermed co-sponsored and recently spoke out on the floor in support of HB 2462, a bill to ensure equal pay for men and women by prohibiting the screening of job applicants based on their salary history and requiring employers to justify gender pay disparity using legitimate business reasons. You can listen to her floor speech below:

From Illinois News Network:

Republican Margo McDermed, R-Frankfort, says her professional career would have been very different under this proposed law.

"I think about, with great regret, how much more I would have retired with if we'd had some of the protections that [Rep. Moeller] is fighting for here today," McDermed said.

The bill also prohibits employers from inquiring about wage history and creates sizable legal penalties for doing so. 

From AMNY:

If employers can’t ask you what you made the last time around, goes the argument, they’ll have to base their hiring decisions more on quality of the applicant than the easy glance to the right of the dollar sign — relying on a figure, in other words, that may unfairly undervalue a woman due to past history.

....It made it through the Illinois House, where Republican Rep. Margo McDermed voted for it, noting her personal experience as an attorney for an energy company.

House Bill 2462 passed the House on a 92-24 vote. It is currently in the Senate where it is expected to pass. 
From the Illinois House GOP Caucus Blog:

Lawmakers and environmentalists from parts of Illinois that rely on groundwater want tougher monitoring of porous rock quarries that are being "reclaimed" by filling them with construction waste, saying they want to regulate them to make sure drinking water doesn't become contaminated with toxins.

On the other side are road builders, engineers and others in the construction business, who argue that Illinois has sufficient quarry regulations and additional testing would be too expensive.

The proposed rules appear stymied this spring. But Attorney General Lisa Madigan is in court, trying to force previously dismissed groundwater monitoring on the quarries. She argued in a state appellate court brief that testing underground aquifers is necessary to protect drinking water "from the ongoing threat posed by the placement of unchecked materials ... directly into the water table."

Pro-monitoring forces use Flint, Michigan, as a worst-case scenario, where river water was not treated to reduce corrosion for 18 months, leading lead to leach from old pipes and fixtures.

"That's the danger," said Rep. Margo McDermed, a Republican from limestone-rich Will County who is sponsoring legislation requiring groundwater monitoring around quarry receptacles. "That's the concern of everyone who uses water nearby quarries: that we could be in a situation like that." 

Read more
Friday was the 3rd reading deadline in the House, which means it was the final opportunity for most House bills to be voted on and have a chance to become law.
The House takes another recess this week and when we return, will be in session every week from now until the scheduled end of session on May 31st.

Light At the End of the Tunnel?
We were in Springfield last week after a two week absence and the main issues of the day; the budget, pension reform, job growth, etc. were again put on the back burner and kicked down the road to May. In the flurry of activity before the final reading deadline, 179 bills passed last week, including a bill to require the teaching of cursive in public schools. Yet, instead of debating the budget, House Democrats voted on numerous pieces of legislation that, in total, would cost the state an additional $295 million. The priorities of House leadership are disappointing at best.
The legislature only has the month of May remaining to tackle the big issues. In the past two years at the end of May, the House Democrats have used their majority to pass budgets that were billions of dollars out of balance and wiped its hands of the issue. The House has thus abdicated its Constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget. This has left Illinois in an unprecedented and staggeringly bad financial position.
There was one notable piece of good news last week. Governor Rauner and Speaker Madigan met for the first time in months. It remains to be seen whether this will be the start of meaningful budget negotiations.