From the Caucus Blog:

Governor Bruce Rauner announced today the State of Illinois will work with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to expand anti-hate education to Illinois students. This is part of Governor Rauner’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism and other hate crimes in Illinois.

“As Simon Wiesenthal and others frequently said, ‘For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.’ We’re here because we’re doing something. Illinois will not stay silent in the face of hate, bigotry and persecution,” Governor Rauner said. “Illinois is a leader in anti-hate education, and we will work with organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center to continue to lead by example.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center today presented Governor Bruce Rauner with its 2017 Digital Terrorism and Hate Report at the State Capitol. He is the first Midwestern governor to be presented with the report.

"The Simon Wiesenthal Center is grateful for Governor Rauner taking a leadership position today, in supporting our ongoing efforts to combat racism, anti-Semitism and extremism, especially on social media." said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization, and founder of the Digital Hate and Terrorism Project, twenty two years ago.  "The Simon Wiesenthal Center's Midwest Director, Alison Pure-Slovin, has already begun to train facilitators for our new Students Tools for Tolerance program that will empower young people to deal with the tsunami of online hate. We look forward to working with Governor Rauner and Secretary of Education Beth Purvis to educate our children on the perils of social media.”

Earlier this month, Governor Rauner unveiled a four-part initiative to combat the rise in anti-Semitism and hate crimes both in Illinois and around the country. His directives include:

  • Strengthening Illinois’ hate crime law to prevent and prosecute hate crimes targeting specific religions
  • Improving law enforcement training to properly identify, investigate and prosecute hate crimes
  • Expanding K-12 education to combat hate
  • Prohibiting state contracts with companies that boycott Israel




Image result for illinois pension crisisTogether with a number of other colleagues, Rep. McDermed has introduced legislation in the House to implement reform to stem the state's ballooning pension liability. Illinois' pension liability has spiked to $130 billion. House Bill 4027 would provide significant savings for taxpayers and grant Chicago Public Schools $215 million for a one time pension parity payment. Filed by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, the bill is modeled after bipartisan legislation previously introduced in the Senate. 


Specifically, HB 4027 includes: 

  • Senate President John Cullerton’s “consideration model” that would require members of TRS, SURS, SERS, GARS, and CTPF to exchange their Tier 1 COLA for the right to have future raises to be counted as pensionable, or keep their COLA and sacrifice future raises as pensionable. This concept previously received union support by the We Are One Coalition 
  • Provides a one-time normal cost payment to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund of $215.2 million for FY 17
  • Closes new member participation in GARS
  • Offers Tier 1 TRS, SURS, SERS and GARS employees the option to participate in a defined contribution (DC) plan
  • Creates a voluntary Tier 3 Hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plan for new Tier 2 employees under TRS, SURS, and certain SERS members who do not participate in Social Security 
‘Quit Exploiting Will County’
          A recent Chicago Tribune Editorial discussed the practice of dumping construction debris in to old, unused quarries.  Will County has 9 such quarry sites that accept debris, the most in the State. Many of our local communities rely on groundwater for drinking and given recent national concerns about contaminated water I filed a bill to ensure that the water near these sites is properly monitored. Read the editorial here.
 
Republicans Offer New Pension Reform Proposal
          I joined House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, and a number of other colleagues in filing legislation to address Illinois’ staggering pension crisis. The pension reform would save taxpayers an estimated $2.25 billion dollars in the short run and grant Chicago the one time pension pickup of $215 million they need to finish the school year as part of a bipartisan good faith effort. The legislation uses Senate President John Cullerton’s “consideration model” that would require members of TRS, SURS, SERS, GARS, and CTPF to exchange their Tier 1 COLA for the right to have future raises to be counted as pensionable, or keep their COLA and sacrifice future raises as pensionable. In addition it would close new member participation in GARS, the pension system for General Assembly members.
 
Chicago, Illinois Population Continues to Decline
          Chicago, one of the nation’s largest cities, was the only top ten city to see a drop in population between 2015 and 2016, losing 19,570 residents. In addition, for the third straight year Illinois has lost more residents than other state. In 2016 there was a net loss of 37,508 people. The decline coincided with patterns of stagnant job creation in Illinois. Groups leaving Illinois include young adults searching for employment elsewhere.  While the unemployment rate is down -0.7 percentage points from a year ago, at 5.4% it is still above the national average (4.7%) and monthly payroll gains continue to significantly lag behind the rest of the country. 
 
Upcoming Townhall
          I am hosting a town hall next month in Frankfort. This will be the first of several townhalls I will hold over the course of the year. I will be available to hear from constituents on all issues, but each townhall will focus on a particular topic. The focus of this first townhall will be transportation issues. The 37th district is an important transportation crossroads between Chicago and the rest of the state and I serve as the minority spokesperson on the House Transportation; Roads and Bridges Committee. The townhall will be held on Tuesday, April 18th at 6:30pm in the old blue Frankfort Township building, 11008 W Lincoln Hwy.
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Frankfort, IL…. State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) is hosting a town hall next month in Frankfort. The townhall will be focused on transportation issues and include a discussion of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s plans for the 37th district. This will be the first of several townhalls Rep. McDermed will host over the course of the year. She will be available to hear from constituents on all issues, but each townhall will focus on a particular topic.

“The 37th district is an important transportation crossroads between Chicago and the rest of the State,” said Rep. McDermed. “I want residents to have this opportunity to talk with me about their local and state transportation concerns.”

Rep. McDermed is the House minority spokesperson on the Transportation; Regulation, Roads, and Bridges Committee. The townhall will be held on Tuesday, April 18th at 6:30pm in the old, blue Frankfort Township Building, 11008 W Lincoln Hwy.
From the Chicago Tribune:

During construction season, it's not unusual to find dump trucks lined up at Will County's nine quarry sites that accept so-called clean construction debris. Dumping into retired or underused quarries has long been a subject of concern. The quarries aren't lined to protect groundwater, and they aren't regulated as heavily as landfills that accept garbage.
Image result for will county il quarry
...Bills sponsored by state Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, and Emily McAsey, D-Lockport, are sitting in a House subcommittee where they are likely to remain. McDermed says the committee chairman, Rep. Daniel Beiser, D-Alton, believes current regulations of quarries go far enough.

...McDermed says Illinois can't expect the industry to regulate itself, so groundwater monitoring is crucial: "A system that says we're going to take the word of the person who runs it that it's clean construction debris because of some random checks by eyesight, that is not a system," she says.
Legislation Passes House
            House Bill 528, legislation I filed to create the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission unanimously passed the House. By making the evidence collection and testing process more transparent we can decrease the likelihood of error, lessen the rape kit backlog at the state police, and hopefully bring more offenders to justice.
           Under current law, the Secretary of State must publish and mail to every household a proposed Constitutional Amendment, the explanation of the amendment, the arguments for and against the amendment, and the form in which the amendment will appear on the ballot. House Bill 348 is a cost saving measure (about $1.3 million per amendment) that removes this requirement and instead only requires that the information be posted on a website controlled by the Secretary of State. Newspaper notices about the constitutional amendment would still be required.
 
New Pension Proposal
          Last June, Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders agreed the state would pay for one year of CPS’ teacher pensions if lawmakers passed vital statewide pension reform. No pension proposal was sent to the governor and so he vetoed the separate Chicago pension pickup bill. CPS has moved to cut costs after the veto by furloughing employees and freezing school budgets but say that it could be forced to cut summer school and shorten the school year by about three weeks if the state doesn’t intervene. After a highly publicized meeting with Chance the Rapper, the Governor offered two paths to help CPS fill its budget hole: a legislative proposal or through city TIF funds. Senators Connelly and Tracy last week introduced legislation supported by the Governor that would give $215 million to CPS for its teacher pensions in exchange for reforms to the state’s public pensions. Critics to the proposal say that it is unfair to trade a one year deal for Chicago in exchange for permanent pension reform. 
Image result for sexual assault kitsSpringfield, IL… Working together with the Illinois State Police, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has successfully pushed forward a bill to improve the processing and review of sexual assault evidence. House Bill 528 requires the State to create and operate a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system.

“It’s important that we not only implement a tracking system in Illinois, but we make sure we get it right,” Rep. McDermed said. “A critical part of ensuring justice for victims of sexual assault is these evidence kits. The long, arduous process of testing can be disheartening for victims, especially when they don’t know the status of their case.”

The bill creates the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission, a group that will work to create the tracking system and develop guidelines for sexual assault evidence tracking. The bill 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. HB 528 is modeled off of similar, successful legislation in Michigan.

“By making the process more transparent we can decrease the likelihood of error, lessen the rape kit backlog at the state police, and hopefully bring more offenders to justice,” Rep. McDermed continued.

HB 528 was unanimously voted out of the House Committee on Human Services and will next be considered in a full vote on the House floor.