Springfield, IL… Following a shocking investigative report by the Chicago Tribune, the House and Senate Education Committees held a joint meeting to hear testimony from sexual harassment and abuse survivors as well as Chicago Public School employees. Taking note of the troubling issues brought up during testimony, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has joined the push for significant legislative changes to sexual misconduct policies in Illinois schools.  
“Obviously we are not doing enough to keep our children safe from predators in places where parents entrust us to protect them,” Rep. McDermed said. “The State needs to step in to ensure that schools are a place where students can feel safe. There needs to be zero tolerance for sexual misconduct by those in positions of authority.”
House Bill 5929 would amend the Chicago and Downstate Articles of the Pension Code to allow the forfeiture of pension benefits of any teacher who is found through an administrative hearing to have sexually abused a student. The legislation would apply to any teacher hired after the effective date of the bill as the pension guarantee written into the Illinois Constitution prohibits ex post facto application of the law.
House Bill 5923 adds stricter provisions to the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act by providing for the immediate suspension or revocation of the license of any Illinois educator or other school district employee who negligently, as opposed to just willfully, fails to report an instance of suspected child abuse or neglect. Rep. McDermed’s own legislation to increase the criminal penalty for any person who knowingly violates reporting requirements in the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, House Bill 5131, was filed earlier this year in response to last year’s revelation of widespread misconduct in national athletic programs. Despite filing a motion to discharge it from committee, HB 5131 never received a hearing or a vote.
Rep. McDermed is also a co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation filed before the hearing, House Bill 5914, that would make comprehensive changes to the way in which schools hire teachers and conduct investigations of sexual misconduct.
Legislation spurred by the Tribune'CPS investigation is expected to be heard during the November veto session. If approved and signed, they would be effective immediately.

Image result for i80Frankfort, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has been named to the leadership team of the I-80 Coalition.
The I-80 Coalition was launched by the Will County Center for Economic Development earlier this summer and its members are comprised of representatives from government, business and labor. The purpose of the coalition is to fund a public awareness and lobbying campaign to gin up support for needed improvements to I-80. It is in the process of incorporating itself into a nonprofit group.
“We need a plan that recognizes the state and nationwide significance Will County plays in our transportation system; while appreciating that there are local families that live and travel along these roads every day,” Rep. McDermed said. “This is going to be a huge undertaking, one that needs a sustainable funding source. Getting that will take a bipartisan, coordinated effort.”
A Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Study showed that 60 percent of the nation’s freight, roughly valued at $623 billion, moves through the County, much of that on I-80. This poses numerous safety issues and causes significant congestion along the highly trafficked I-80 corridor. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has included important upgrades to I-80 in its latest multi-year plan, but total costs are estimated around $1 billion and there is currently no established mechanism to fund it.
The 37th Legislative District, represented by Rep. McDermed, comprises a significant portion of Will County including the stretch of I-80 from Tinley Park to New Lenox. In the General Assembly Rep. McDermed is the Republican Spokesperson for the Transportation: Regulation, Roads, and Bridges Committee and sits on all four subcommittees.
New Laws
Summer is the primary time for the Governor to take action on the bills that are sent to him by the General Assembly. Below are just a few of the bills that have been signed in to law over the past few weeks:

SB 2270- authorizes law enforcement to temporarily take custody of a dog or cat if the animal is exposed to extreme temperature conditions for an extended time. The new law will apply to animals trapped in hot motor vehicles and also to those forced to stay outdoors in conditions of extreme cold.

HB 4745- amends Illinois’ procurement law so that it no longer applies to contracts for services, information technology purchases, commodities, and equipment to support the delivery of timely newborn screening services provided by IDPH. A 2007 state law added Krabbe’s Disease to the newborn screening panel, but by 2017 it had still not been implemented. 5 Illinois children died of the disease in the interim. IDPH testified before a House committee that the nearly two year procurement process for new equipment was partly to blame for the delay. Another new law, SB 456, adds Spinal Muscular Dystrophy to the newborn screening panel by 2020.
Frankfort, IL…. State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena), together with One Light Self Defense, is again hosting a free workshop for women and girls. The 3 hour course will help them learn avoidance tactics, self-defense misconceptions, offensive techniques and defensive escapes. The class will be on Thursday, August 23rd at 6pm and will take place in the Frankfort Square Park District building at 7540 W Braemar Lane. 
“The class is open to any and all women and girls over 12, but it will be incredibly beneficial for young women heading off to college or back to school,” Rep. McDermed said. “The instructors at One Light do a great job of teaching a basic understanding of how to avoid becoming a victim of violence and sharing the skills that can be used in the event of an attack. We’ve worked with One Light over the course of numerous classes and the response we get from attendees is always incredibly positive.”

This is the third year that Rep. McDermed is partnering with One Light to offer self-defense classes and the second beginner class offered this year. One Light is a local nonprofit that teaches free courses across Illinois and has traveled to Kenya to teach self-defense skills to young women at risk.

Space is limited and registration is encouraged. While the class is free, donations to One Light are appreciated. 100% of donations go to victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, or sexual assault. To learn more about the class or to register, please email mcdermed@ilhousegop.org or call (815)277-2079.

Frankfort, IL… For the fourth year in a row, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) is pleased to host a Senior Fair full of vendors and helpful information for residents in the 37th district. The event will be on Thursday, August 16th at the Oaks Recreation and Fitness Center located at 10847 W. LaPorte Road in Mokena. The fair will run from 10:00a.m. until 12:00 noon. It is free and open to the public. This year the fair will feature a mobile unit from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.

“I encourage senior citizens to come to the fair and learn about the businesses, state and local agencies, and non-for-profits that work to improve their lives,” said Rep. McDermed. “This year the fair will not only help seniors and their caregivers, but all 37th district residents who want convenient, local access to a DMV office.”

At the fair, residents and their caregivers can glean valuable information and access resources from state and local vendors. Staff from Rep. McDermed’s district office will also be available to assist constituents with any state government concerns. 

In addition, the Secretary of State’s office will be operating a mobile unit at the fair. The mobile unit operates similar to a DMV office and offers services that include drivers’ licenses renewals, identification cards, vision and written tests, organ donor registration, voter registration applications, and vehicle and license plate renewal stickers. While the senior fair will end at noon, the mobile unit will continue to run until 1pm.

What: Senior Fair and SOS Mobile Unit
When: Thursday August 16th, 10:00am-12:00pm
Where: Oaks Recreation and Fitness Center, 10847 W La Porte Road, Mokena

Refreshments will be provided and attendees will have the chance to win door prizes. For more information on the event, call Rep. McDermed’s office at (815) 277-2079.
State Representative Margo McDermed has released an end of session “Capitol Update” for her constituents. To save the state money, Rep. McDermed refrained from using taxpayer money to print and mail the report, instead choosing to put together an online version. It is available here.

“It is an honor to serve as State Representative for my communities and I consider it a part of my duty to keep them updated on the things going on in Springfield and around the district,” Rep. McDermed said. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done to put Illinois back on the right track, but I won’t stop fighting for the families and people that live in my district.”   

In the ‘Capitol Update’ constituents can expect to find information on the important measures that Rep. McDermed has fought for, an update on bills that may impact you, details on the state budget, and upcoming events in the area hosted by Rep. McDermed.

Rep. McDermed has been the State Representative for the 37th District since 2015. She currently sits on 13 committees and subcommittees including Environment, Mental Health, Elections and Campaign Finance, and the Transportation: Regulation, Roads and Bridges Committees.  

Frankfort, IL…  For the fourth straight year, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) is pleased to host a blood drive together with Heartland Blood Centers. The drive will be at Rep. McDermed's office, 11032 W Lincoln Hwy in Frankfort, on Wednesday August 8th  from 3:30-7:30pm. Those interested in donating blood should call Rep. McDermed’s office to schedule an appointment at (815) 277-2079 or visit heartlandbc.org.

“During the summer blood donations routinely drop, endangering lives,” Rep. McDermed said. “Donating is quick, easy, and can help save lives in our community. I encourage local residents to sign-up today to come out for a great cause.” 

Heartland is a local nonprofit that maintains a commitment to send all the blood they collect to local area hospitals. More than 500 donations are needed daily to save patient lives and donating one unit of blood can help save up to 3 lives. Donors are required to be in good general health and feeling well, be at least 17-years-old (or 16-years-old with parental consent) and weigh at least 110 lbs. Everyone who donates will receive a free Chicago Bears blood donation t-shirt.

Please call Rep. McDermed’s office with any questions or to schedule an appointment at (815) 277-2079.
Springfield, IL…. State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) joined other Republicans this week in filing legislation to compel real property tax system changes from the Illinois General Assembly by instating a sunset for Illinois’ property tax code.
House Bill 5924 creates a deadline of July 1, 2019 for the General Assembly to create a new property tax code that is fair and equitable throughout the entire state of Illinois. If the General Assembly fails to address this by the deadline, the current Illinois property tax code will be immediately removed from state law.
“Property taxes are the most frequently cited reason my constituents have for leaving Illinois,” Rep. McDermed said. “We need to start from scratch and reset the property tax code so that it is fair and isn’t forcing struggling families to flee Illinois.”

Illinois already has the highest effective state and local tax burden in the nation, according to a report by WalletHub. Yet again this year WalletHub ranked Illinois as having the 2nd highest property taxes in the nation and while the Census Bureau reports that the average American household spends $2,197 on property taxes annually, WalletHub reports that in Illinois it’s $4,058 per average household. This burden is often cited as the reason many residents are leaving. The state’s population declined by an estimated 33,700 in 2017, the greatest population loss of any state, and the fourth year in a row that Illinois’ population dropped. Illinois lost the title of 5th largest state to Pennsylvania and will likely lose a congressional seat when the census is taken in 2020.
“For many working families and seniors on fixed incomes, Illinois’ outsized property tax burden has made it increasingly difficult to afford to stay in their homes, especially as home values have stagnated,” Rep. McDermed continued. “Unfortunately, the General Assembly only ever seems to tackle the necessary issues if a crisis is forced upon it. A sunset is necessary to create the impetus for a bipartisan comprehensive solution to Illinois broken property tax system.”

HB 5924 was filed with the House Clerk by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs).

Supreme Court Decision to Bring in $$
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair will allow Illinois to collect sales taxes from more out-of-state online retailers. Currently, about 80 percent of out-of-state retailers are already paying sales taxes here. The Wayfair decision and the language written into the Budget Implementation (BIMP) bill for FY19 will help Illinois capture the remaining 20 percent.
The language in the BIMP expands the state’s 6.25 sales tax to out-of-state retailers who do $100,000 or more worth of business annually in Illinois (or 200 or more annual transactions here). If businesses reach that threshold, they are considered to be “maintaining a place of business in this State” and required to collect and remit the taxes. COGFA estimates the tax could bring in $150 million in FY19.

This month the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will start mailing out the new Medicare cards to residents in Illinois

In 2015, Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. This law requires the removal of Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards by April 2019 and the issuing of new Medicare cards to replace the old ones. This new initiative is to protect against fraud and identity theft. A new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the Social Security Number (SSN)-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on the new Medicare cards for Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility status and claim status.

The new Medicare card will have a completely different and randomly assigned identifier that will be 11 characters long, containing a mix of numbers and uppercase letters. This is the MBI. CMS is also removing the gender and signature line from the new Medicare card. The MBI is confidential like your SSN and should be protected as personal health information.

If a beneficiary is new to Medicare after April 2018, the beneficiary will receive the new MBI card. CMS has until April 2019 to mail out new cards to all 60 million national Medicaid beneficiaries. Current Medicare cards will be accepted until December 31, 2019, after which only the new MBI card will be accepted.

The new card will not impact current Medicare benefits or status. Beneficiaries are asked to destroy, not throw away, their old Medicare cards once the new one is received.

The Illinois Attorney General's office is warning residents about scams contacting you by email or phone asking you to confirm your Medicare number so they can send you a new card. If you need to update your mailing address you can do so online here or by calling 1-800-772-1213. 

Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) joined other representatives in introducing legislation to protect students around the state from sexual abuse and to create new statewide mandates to ensure accusations against educators are handled properly.
A recent Chicago Tribune investigation found that Chicago Public Schools improperly dealt with investigations into educators accused of sexual abuse or assault and in some cases failed to act. It also found that they conducted inept background checks, which led to the hiring of educators with red flags in their records. In addition, CPS admitted that they do not have a standard protocol for investigating reports of sexual misconduct, which resulted in the significant failures in the way individual schools and the district handled cases of sexual abuse.
“There were failures at every level here; at the individual schools, at the district offices, and in state law,” Rep. McDermed said. “The Tribune’s investigation revealed that yet again victims were ignored and abuses were mishandled. It is an all too common story that has absolutely no place in our schools. It is unacceptable and we need to take action to prevent anything like this from happening again.
House Bill 5914 will require school boards to report all credible cases of sexual assault or abuse by a licensed educator to the State Board of Education, to establish a hearing procedure for student victims, and to ensure that a licensed educator under investigation by the State Superintendent of Education is reassigned to non-classroom duty. The bill mandates that the Illinois State Board of Education must be aware of, and monitor, the process with regards to each individual background check conducted by school districts. It further allows a school district to divulge internal investigative findings and discipline to another school district. Modeled off a Florida law, the bill would also make it a criminal offense for an authority figure to engage in sexual conduct or sexual relations with a student, regardless of age. Under current law, it is not a criminal offense if the student in question is 17 years or older.
As reported in the Tribune: “Athletic coaches are “a particular area of concern,” for CPS. The Tribune found that of the 72 cases in which employees and volunteers were accused of sexually abusing or assaulting students in Chicago Public Schools since 2008, 11 were coaches. Even more had dual roles as teachers and coaches.
Earlier this year, Rep. McDermed filed legislation to strengthen the reporting requirements in Illinois Child Abuse and Neglect Act. Rep. McDermed filed the legislation after news investigations into national athletic programs found that individuals within those organization failed to act when faced with accusations and evidence against coaches and others in power. House Bill 5131 increases the criminal penalty for any person who knowingly violates reporting requirements of abuse or neglect from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony. It further states that anyone who does so as part of a cover-up or to protect a person from prosecution commits a Class 3 felony. According to the Tribune, no Chicago school employees have been charged with failing to report sexual abuse allegations to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, as required by state law.  
“It’s clear that we are not doing enough to protect our children from predators; whether it is in school or after school at programs where we entrust adults to take care of them,” Rep. McDermed said. “We need stronger state laws and consequences for those that don’t mandatorily report.”
HB 5914 was filed by State Representative David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills).
Image result for I80New Lenox, IL... State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) is pleased to announce that Will County was awarded $34 million in federal funds for the $43 million dollar project to reduce the bottleneck at the Interstate 80 and Route 30 interchange in New Lenox. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) recently announced winners of a new competitive grant program that aims to improve the mobility of freight at the local level. The Illinois Competitive Freight Program seeks to reduce bottlenecks, improve freight-related safety, increase intermodal accessibility to freight corridors and enhance efficiency through the strategic deployment of technology. 

"Illinois' central location makes it a vital transportation hub for the nation, and Will County is at the center of it," Rep. McDermed said. "This new grant is a great opportunity to invest in a project that will not only maintain our state's commitment to that status, but improve the quality of life for residents in the 37th district by improving safety along these highly trafficked corridors."

Though administered by IDOT, the program primarily uses federal funds. IDOT received 46 applications requesting close to $600 million in freight funds. The program only selected about half of the applications and will distribute $240 million in National Highway Freight Program through 2022. The rest will be matched by $90 million in state and private funds. 

"Securing this money took a coordinated effort from stakeholders at the state, county, and local level," Rep. McDermed continued. "Thank you to IDOT and everyone involved in ensuring that this important project to reduce congestion and improve safety has the means to move forward."

Representative McDermed serves on three transportation committees in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Spring session, and the bulk of the legislative work for the year, has concluded. Let’s start with the budget…

After years of contentious end of fiscal year battles over the budget, the FY19 proposed budget passed the House and Senate with relative ease and bipartisan support. The budget’s proponents claim it is “balanced”, but that is primarily because it uses revenues from the considerable tax hike imposed on Illinois families last year and one time revenues available only this year. In addition it relies on $300 million from the sale of the Thompson Center in Chicago, which the state does not yet have the legal authority to do.

The budget also contains frivolous spending like over $180 million siphoned from the “Road Fund” for former President Obama’s Presidential Center in Chicago and $50,000 for one legislative group to attend a national convention.

It also does not include any significant reforms to worker’s compensation, property taxes, or the bloated pension systems. The budget merely continues the status quo and Illinois cannot afford to continue limping by from one budget to the next. People are fleeing this state in droves and the residents that remain are crying out for solutions to corruption, astronomical pension debt, sky high property taxes, and more. Sadly, this budget does nothing to steer Illinois in a better direction. For these reasons, I voted no.

Springfield, IL... Following the passage of a budget by the Illinois House of Representatives, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) released the following statement:
"In my fours years in office, the budget process has been marred by partisan politicking and irresponsible budgeting practices. While the budget passed this year was more bipartisan, it was no less irresponsible and I voted no.
This year’s budget is only “balanced” because it uses revenues from the considerable tax hike imposed on Illinois families last year and one time revenues available only this year. It does not include any significant reforms to worker’s compensation, property taxes, or the bloated pension systems. The budget merely continues the status quo and Illinois cannot afford to continue limping by from one budget to the next. People are fleeing this state in droves and the residents that remain are crying out for solutions to corruption, astronomical pension debt, sky high property taxes, and more. Sadly, this budget does nothing to steer Illinois in a better direction."
The #MeToo movement is creating a platform for women to step forward to tell our stories. But as we harness this moment, we must ensure that the voices of all women, including women of color and immigrant women, are included. Nobody should be left behind. That is why here in Illinois, we enthusiastically support the VOICES Act, Senate Bill 34.

According to the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the U.S. Department of Justice, 85 percent of domestic violence is perpetrated against women, and 90 percent of rape victims are women. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found that one in three women have been victims of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner within their lifetime. However, these crimes go largely unreported. Some three out of four physical assaults and four out of five rapes never get reported to police.

For immigrant women, the problem of underreporting is worse due to language barriers and other anxieties, compounded on top of an already horrifying situation.

The VOICES Act creates a standard for law enforcement so that victims will get consistent support from their local agencies, while eliminating some of the barriers faced by immigrant crime survivors that exacerbate Illinois’ underreporting crisis. The VOICES Act will benefit all of our communities.

We invite our male colleagues/allies to join us in passing the VOICES Act and urging the governor to sign it into law without delay. Time’s up.

State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero
State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena
Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) today voted against the idea of giving legislators more control over income taxes. The Illinois House voted on House Resolution 1025, which supports a constitutional amendment to change Illinois from a flat tax state to a graduated income tax state.

“The idea that we in Springfield should be trusted with regulating and creating all kinds of income tax rates is laughable,” Rep. McDermed said. “After raising taxes last year, it is absurd that we would create a new level of uncertainty for families and businesses by making tax brackets subject to change at the whim of the legislature and Governor from year to year.”

The resolution does not carry any legislative weight. Any changes to Illinois Constitution proposed by the General Assembly must be approved by a vote of three-fifths of the members in each chamber and it must be submitted over 6 months prior to the next election. The deadline to get a proposal on the upcoming November election has passed.

“This is a disingenuous resolution at best specifically targeting the base of certain members,” Rep. McDermed continued. “If the majority party truly felt we needed a graduated income tax they would have proposed an amendment before the time passed this year or when they had super majorities and single party control of the legislative and executive branch for a decade.”  

Months ago, House Republicans filed House Resolutions 891 and 975, to oppose any graduated income tax proposal. Despite having 27 and 50 co-sponsors respectively, the resolutions currently languish in the Rules Committee. The chairwoman of the Rules Committee is Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), the chief sponsor of House Resolution 1025.  

House Resolution 1025 passed, despite bipartisan opposition, 61-52.

The Governor announced a plan today to invest $11.05 billion in the state’s roads and bridges over the next six years, including $2.2 billion of state and federal funding in the upcoming fiscal year. The Illinois Department of Transportation Multi-Year Proposed Highway Improvement Program will focus on projects that provide the greatest economic benefit to communities and take advantage of long-term strategies that save money over time.

Based on current funding levels, the FY2019-2024 Proposed Highway Improvement Program aims to improve a total of 1,945 miles of road and 525 bridges maintained by the state. The multi-year program also includes funding for upgrades to more than 750 miles of local roads and 922,933 square feet of local bridges.

One of the plan’s major highlights included $148.4 million for bridge work and other improvements on Interstate 80 through Will County. Other specific projects affecting infrastructure in the 37th district can be found here. The plan in its entirety can be found here

This multiyear plan is the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) first to embrace asset management strategies that commit to smaller repairs avoiding the higher costs of deferred maintenance. Using this approach, IDOT will realize savings over multiple years to eventually invest in other projects throughout the state. The plan also builds upon the latest in data-driven tools to help identify projects that provide the most value to the public while improving quality of life and regional mobility.

Click here to read about the new laws taking effect on June 1st. 

This week is the deadline for Senate Bills to pass the House, a critical deadline as session winds down. We expect to see a number of contentious bills debated on the floor this week. The House and Senate will be in Springfield virtually every day until spring session ends on May 31st.

The third reading deadline in the House has come and gone and we are not in session this week. This deadline serves as the primary end point for voting on bills that originated in the House. When we return next week, we will begin discussion of the bills that passed the Senate.

Blue Collar Jobs Act
House Republicans filed a bill last week supported by both labor and business groups and offers tax incentives to companies making significant capital improvements in Illinois based on the withholding tax paid to construction workers. It does this through the creation of four new tax credits, including:
  • High Impact Business construction jobs credit
  • Enterprise Zone construction jobs credit
  • New Construction EDGE Credit
  • River Edge construction jobs credit
The tax credits are meant to incentivize the company to construct new buildings or improve existing buildings which can’t be built without the use of Illinois labor. The tax credits only become available after the work has been fully completed. There is no risk to the State for a company not meeting its requirement as the State has already captured the withholding tax prior to the tax credit being issued.

Springfield, IL… Today State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) unanimously advanced House Bill 4404 to remove unduly burdensome regulations on mortgage loan workers applied by Illinois and only Illinois.
“Illinois’ Residential Mortgage License Act was enacted to protect consumers in residential mortgage loan transactions, but its license requirements lack any distinction for an independent loan processor who merely handles paperwork.” Rep. McDermed said. “We’re putting an unnecessary onus on these workers and consequently discouraging these jobs in Illinois.”
Mortgage loan processors handle clerical paperwork involved in taking out a mortgage and verify wages and employment among other loan indicators. They do not handle the mortgage itself and do not have an incentive to issue or procure mortgages.
After the housing bubble burst in 2008, the U.S. Congress passed the SAFE Act, which required states to increase their regulations on mortgage loans. Illinois’ legislation regulates processors in the same way as mortgage loan brokers. The latter position must meet stringent licensing requirements from IDFPR and has resulted in significant outsourcing of mortgage loan processing work to other states.
Rep. McDermed worked with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office over the course of three years to come to a compromise. HB4404 removes the stricter requirements on processors while still ensuring they are regulated by the IDFPR and supervised by mortgage loan officers.
HB4404 passed the Illinois House of Representatives on a 110-0 vote. It now heads to the Illinois Senate.
mcdermed_pages.jpgThank you to Michael Thompson and Kristin Lutz, both students at Lincolnway East, for being my ‘Pages for a Day’ last week in Springfield

Pension Problems
A long-term plan approved when Jim Edgar was governor in the 90’s created a spending ramp on pensions to alleviate then budgetary pressures and essentially push pension obligations off until the future. The ramp started in 1995 and under it the State is scheduled to hit 90 percent funding level by 2045. The original forecasts of this plan expected liabilities to reach about $50 billion under the ramp before dropping back down. The State’s actual unfunded liabilities is $123.8 billion as of the latest report in 2016 and there are still 17 years to go before the ramp is scheduled to peak. The projections were off by so much because they assumed an overly optimistic 8.5% yearly return on investments and lawmakers have failed to follow the ramp in many years and instead spent money that should have gone toward pensions on other, more popular items.

The recent allegations about House Speaker Michael Madigan’s improper handling of misconduct on the part of staffers in his political operation has prompted many to call on Madigan to resign his position as Democrat State Party Chairman.

Madigan, of course, has refused. Instead, he has responded to the recent controversy by launching his own investigation into his staff.

Does anyone really believe a Madigan-funded investigation into the handling of sexual harassment accusations on his staff is going to come close to being a truthful presentation of the facts?

Predictably, Speaker Madigan has released several findings showing how his office responded to several allegations and everything was handled perfectly. Imagine that. A Madigan-paid for investigation shows an impeccable record of responsiveness to allegations of misconduct.

Mike Madigan is the only legislative leader in any statehouse in the 50 United States who also serves simultaneously as the state political party chair. As Chairman of the Democrat Party, Madigan has complete control on how Party resources are spent.

This is simply too much power to be put in the hands of one individual. If we are going to reform our state, we need to start by preventing one individual from accumulating so much power, which is why I introduced legislation, HB 4097, last year to ban legislators currently serving in the Legislature from also serving as the State Political Party chair.

My bill is about preventing the abuse of political power in Illinois. Legislators already wield a lot of political power. There is no reason to legally allow sitting legislators to acquire even more clout by heading up their respective state party organizations.  

Margo McDermed,
State Representative 37th District

EBF Money Distributed
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) just finalized the numbers for the evidence-based funding formula for FY18. The State Comptroller was then able to start sending out the new money promised by the tier funding portion of the formula to the most under-resourced districts. 
The EBF formula defines an adequate funding target for each school district, based on enrollment numbers and the cost of 34 factors proven to deliver the greatest positive impact to students. The formula compares each district’s current resources to its unique adequacy target. Increases in state education appropriations go to the most under-resourced districts. An additional $367 million dollars was distributed to schools this year. Lincoln Way SD should see an addition half a million dollars and New Lenox and Mokena should see an additional $130k and $30k respectively. Calculations for all 852 school districts can be found on ISBE’s website.

This new funding formula is ambitious and to fully fund it will require significantly more resources, possibly as much as $7.2 billion dollars, which the state ultimately doesn’t have. To put this in perspective, the state currently spends around $9 billion on education. 

Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has advanced two bills to fine tune the legislation governing the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and consequently save the state money. 

"Given the State's fiscal condition we should be taking a hard look at anywhere that we can save money, reduce redundancies, and operate more efficiently, no matter how small," Rep. McDermed said. "Legislation like House Bill 5206 is a no brainer. Why should we tie our agency's hands when it comes to making financially sound deals?"

HB 5206 allows IDOT to lease locomotives, passenger railcars, and other rolling stock equipment or accessions to any state or state agency, public or private entity, or quasi-public entity. Under current law, IDOT is limited to selling such assets to neighboring states only.

IDOT has several high speed rail locomotives purchased in 2009 through the American Recovery and Investment Act that are not currently in operation. IDOT has a tentative arrangement to lease these railcars to another state on the East Coast, but the agency lacks the authority to do so. The cost to store each unused locomotive is $400 dollars a day.  IDOT's proposed lease would earn approximately $1300 a day; $2.38 million dollars in potential annual revenue for the department to use for infrastructure investments. 

“Legislation pertaining to how state agencies and state government operate are filled with outdated practices and inefficiencies,” Rep. McDermed continued. “We owe it to the taxpayers and recipients of state services to identify where we can make positive, good government improvements.”

House Bill 4960 is an omnibus bill that codifies existing IDOT practices, eliminates outdated statutory requirements, and moves IDOT towards compliance with federal regulations. Such changes include eliminating the annual 10% appropriations increase for downstate transit, instead linking the annual increase to the rate of increase of revenue being raised by the existing formula. The passage of this bill will allow IDOT to operate more efficiently, save tax dollars, and allow the department to provide better service for Illinois residents. 

HB 5206 unanimously passed out of the House Transportation Committee and HB 4960 is awaiting a vote in the Executive Committee.

Springfield Lull
The Illinois House has adjourned for a month. We return on April 9th. Speaker Madigan sets the schedule and all told the House has met for just 12 days this year.

We’ve yet to hold a single committee hearing to address the pension deficit or the budget or any number of the crises bubbling at the state level. The General Assembly has also yet to adopt a revenue estimate, a critical component of the budgeting process. The revenue estimate informs us budget makers how much money we will have to spend. The House has failed to adopt a revenue estimate for years now and has consequently run significant budget deficits leading to a current bill backlog of $8.9 billion dollars.

The House is back in session this week and next before a three week break for the March primaries and Easter holiday. The deadline to introduce new bills was Friday February 16th. Committees have until April 13th to discuss and amend bills before deciding whether or not to forward them to the House floor for a full vote. Given the three week break, expect a flurry of legislative activity over the next two weeks. If you have any questions about particular legislation, visit ILGA.Gov or call my office.

Gun Legislation
Many of us are still reeling from the horrific school shooting that occurred in Parkland recently. I have heard from a number of constituents on the issue of gun control and want to share with you some legislative updates.

Current Illinois law provides that no person may acquire or possess any firearm or ammunition without a Firearm Owner’s Identification card. Any applicant for a FOID card must be at least 21 years old, submit a photo, and undergo a background check that includes screening for not just criminal activity, but mental health and other disabilities. Prohibited purchasers in Illinois include those with felony convictions, previous mental health facility patients, the developmentally or intellectually disabled and those addicted to narcotics, among many others.

Springfield, IL…. In the wake of scandals rocking the USA Gymnastics and Swimming programs, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has filed House Bill 5131 to strengthen the Illinois Child Abuse and Neglect Act. News investigations in to both organizations found that individuals within the programs failed to act when faced with accusations and evidence against coaches and others in power.
“In light of recent reports that shocked parents everywhere, but unfortunately were unsurprising to many involved in the sports world, this bill is vital to protect our children,” Rep. McDermed said. “It’s clear that there is a systemic problem in children’s athletic programs and a tendency towards covering it up instead of taking action.”
HB 5131 increases the criminal penalty for any person who knowingly violates reporting requirements of abuse or neglect from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony. It further states that anyone who does so as part of a cover-up or to protect a person from prosecution commits a Class 3 felony. The bill also requires recreational or athletic program personnel who are required to report child abuse to complete mandated training on recognizing and reporting child abuse.
"We are hearing far too often that victims were ignored and abuses were swept under the rug to protect a program’s image. That is unacceptable.” Rep. McDermed continued. “In a perfect world, no child is abused or neglected. However, if and when any inappropriate behavior occurs, it is the responsibility of those we entrust with our children to listen to them and to take action immediately. Children who pursue their passions and hobbies should be able to do so safely and without fear.”
HB 5131 has been filed in the Illinois House and is awaiting committee assignment.

Governor’s Budget Address
You can watch my immediate reaction here.

One of the biggest takeaways from the Governor’s budget address was a proposal to gradually shift pension costs to schools. In his address, Governor Rauner said, “if you separate the payment from the accountability, there is no accountability.” The reasoning is that costs unnecessarily balloon when the responsibility for picking up the tab is disconnected from those spending the money. While I agree we should work to help schools lower costs, work to bring more accountability to our finances, and to question the necessity of certain expenses, this proposal is unlikely to gain much traction in Springfield.

That being said, leadership and legislators need to get realistic about the state budget and the status of Illinois’ finances. Despite forcing a 32% tax hike on citizens last year, tax receipts are significantly less than expected and Illinois spending continues to climb along with pension obligations and debt service. It’s clear that tax hikes are not the answer to our budget woes. Common sense budgeting practices with an established revenue estimate and clear spending priorities are a good place to start. Illinois cannot afford any more last minute backroom budget deals that force rank and file legislators to choose between a bad deal or no budget at all. I'm worried that will be the case yet again this year as Speaker Madigan has cancelled 3 session days already. The House won't be back in session until February 27th.

‘Illinois Tax Reform Plan’
I am the co-sponsor of a recent taxpayer relief plan put forth by State Representative Breen to capitalize on the new federal tax legislation. This package of bills includes:

Last week the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) hosted local officials and residents at Joliet Junior College. The event was held to get feedback on a billion dollar 16-mile improvement plan for Interstate 80. The plan is designed to improve safety and reduce travel times, but the state is having difficulty getting together the resources needed to finance the project. Based on comments it receives, IDOT will select a preferred alignment and its interchanges this spring, conduct an environmental assessment in the summer, and develop a financing strategy by fall, which could likely include tolls.

You can see the plan here. IDOT is accepting written comments until February 14.

State Representative McDermed, who attended the event, is looking to hear more from constituents about transportation issues and financing. As the Republican Spokesperson on the House Transportation Committee, Rep. McDermed is eager to address constituent's safety and transportation concerns in Springfield. A brief survey is now available on her website. Click the button on the top right portion of her website to access the survey. 

State of the State
Governor Rauner gave his third state of the state address to a joint session of the House and Senate last week. He began by expounding on the great history and accomplishments of our state in celebration of this year’s bicentennial anniversary. He then turned to more somber issues like sexual harassment in Illinois politics and the legionnaires outbreak at the Quincy Veterans Home.
The 30 minute speech also touched on the historic school funding reform legislation passed last year and the need to unite under similar bipartisan circumstances to finally tackle out of control property taxes, term limits, and criminal justice reform.

You can watch my immediate reaction to the address here.

New Executive Orders
True to his comments in his State of the State Address, Governor Rauner signed an executive order that promises swifter help to victims of sexual harassment by creating a Chief Compliance Office that would review allegations in ten days or less. Right now this just applies to government employees, but the Governor hopes to expand that system statewide. The executive order also requires training on the best investigation practices by the end of this year and every two years thereafter. This executive order is potent, especially since it came to light that two dozen ethics complaints filed at the Legislative Inspector General’s Office went unaddressed because until last fall there had been no legislative inspector general since 2015.

This week the House convenes for the first time since the fall. Speaker Madigan, who controls the session calendar, cancelled session last week. Despite the overwhelming amount of work to do, the House will only meet 14 times between now and April. On Wednesday the Governor will give his State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate. 

“Right to Sunscreen”
I’ve recently filed several bills, including one that will make sunscreen more widely available to students in Illinois. Sunscreen is considered an over the counter drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and many school policies require a doctor’s note for students to be given such medications. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US and we are needlessly putting our children in danger with these kinds of policies. My bill requires a public school to permit a student, without the authorization of the student's parent or legal guardian or a physician, to possess or self-apply sunscreen.

If you would like to propose a bill or have any legislative ideas, reach out to my office via my email at repmcdermed@ilhousegop.org or through my website.