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.