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 or through my website.  
Springfield, IL… State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has introduced a bill to 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 physician authorization for students to be given such medications.

“It is pretty straightforward; if a student wants to put on sunscreen, they should be able to,” Rep. McDermed said. “Unfortunately, red tape at schools can prevent this. Given the dangers of skin cancer, it is common sense to loosen these restrictions.”

Image result for generic sunscreen photoAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Evidence shows that sunburns during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person’s chance of developing melanoma. The CDC advises applying sunscreen every time a child goes outside.

“Students shouldn’t need a doctor’s note to put on sunscreen. Our children spend most of their time at school and these kinds of policies put them unnecessarily at risk of dangerous sun exposure,” Rep. McDermed continued.

House Bill 4216 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. The bill has been introduced and is awaiting assignment to a committee. 

I hope everyone had a happy holiday season and is enjoying the new year thus far. I had a wonderful time seeing my family together again and hope you found a similar joy.