The McDermed Dispatch for April 20th

The legislature is back from Spring Break and ready to hit the ground running until the end of session. There’s plenty of work to be done, but as always it’s a pleasure for me to go to work for you in Springfield. 

Legislative update
My bill, HB303, made a significant move forward last week, passing out of the House with a vote of 114-2. The bill amends the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to ban a government body from concealing the terms of a severance agreement funded by tax-payer dollars. It further defines the term “severance agreement” and provides protection for trade secrets, proprietary information, or other exempt information. It is now in the Senate being sponsored by Republican Caucus Chair, Senator Althoff.
            The College of DuPage is under intense scrutiny and the subject of investigations right now for a number of reasons including a severance agreement reached between the board and its former president. Efforts to seal the terms of this agreement led to overall attention being given to the issue of sealed severance agreements throughout the Illinois public sectors.  I have made government openness and transparency a major focus of my efforts in Springfield.  

HB1335, colloquially known as the “right to try” act, seeks to give patients with no hope one last chance. The bill allows for terminal patients who have exhausted all other clinical options to bypass the lengthy FDA approval process and “try” drugs that are still in its clinical trials. These are drugs which have successfully passed Phase 1 testing but have not yet been approved for general use. The FDA process can take years, which many of these patients do not have. A similar bill introduced by Senator Connelly, passed the senate the same day.

HB208 designates pumpkin pie as the official State pie of Illinois.  The bill was approved by the House on Thursday, April 16 by a vote of 108-3-2. In discussion on the bill, Representative Keith Sommer told us about the importance of the traditional American dessert to his hometown. Bills like these, while not of vital importance to the state, are good for business and tourism. The University of Illinois reports that this plant, combined with the work of area purchasers of whole pumpkins for transport and sale, mean that approximately ninety percent of the pumpkins grown in the United States for commercial sale are cultivated in the region of Peoria, Illinois. The slogan of the Village of Morton is “The Pumpkin Capital of the World.”
New State Superintendent Appointed
The State Superintendent of Education is the supervisor of public schools and publicly-supported charter schools throughout Illinois.  Dr. Tony Smith was appointed to the position this week. He has experience in educational management in both the public and the private sector.  He is a past superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, operating public schools in one of the largest cities in California.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), a nine-member panel appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, is the statewide school board that oversees distribution of state school aid and compliance with state and federal educational mandates.  Departing State Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch was thanked for his 21 years of educational leadership at ISBE, particularly his advocacy for students affected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).    

Remembering Lincoln

Last Wednesday was the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s death. Lincoln, a onetime state representative himself, was honored on the House floor with speeches and remembrances from various members. It was led by Representative Butler (R-Springfield) who represents the closest resembling district to the area that Lincoln had represented. Lincoln was shot while attending a play on the night of April 14th by actor John Wilkes Booth. He died the next morning, less than a week after General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox symbolically ending the Civil War. Arguably our nation’s greatest president and Illinois’ most favorite son, he is remembered as the liberator of slaves and the savior of the Union and a president who united the country in the darkest of times. If you’d like to read my full statement, you can do so at my website. 
18th Congressional District Race Dates Set
Abraham Lincoln used a distant ancestor of this district as his springboard to serve one term in Congress in 1847-1849. Governor Rauner set amended dates for voters to fill the vacancy left by Aaron Schock on March 31st.  In amended writs of special election finalized on Tuesday, April 14, Governor Bruce Rauner set dates of July 7 for the primary election to name two major-party candidates for the seat, and September 10 for the general election to allow voters to make a final selection.  

The amended dates will allow for Illinois citizens living abroad, especially soldiers in combat zones, to vote by paper mail in both elections as required by law.  Under the amended writs, candidates were able to file nomination papers with the State Board of Elections starting on Wednesday, April 15.  At the close of business on Monday, April 20, all of the candidates for the congressional vacancy will have filed their petitions. 

Devastating tornadoes struck central Illinois two weeks ago and destroyed an entire community. The main one was categorized as an EF-4 twister, the next-to-the-highest category of storm severity. In the town of Fairdale, 34 homes were destroyed, 16 suffered major damage, and another 22 suffered minor damage. I would ask that you pray for the families affected and take any and all weather alerts seriously. 
Please visit the Village of Kirkland website for updates on the area and to see how you can help our fellow Illinoisans out.  

Ribbon Cutting and Open House
Last week the Frankfort, Mokena, and New Lennox Chambers of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for my office. About 100 people celebrated with us; including area business leaders, numerous local elected officials, the three Chamber of Commerce presidents and the Mayors of Frankfort, Mokena, and New Lenox. I thank the Chambers for hosting our event and the volunteers who put the whole thing together to help make it such a success! 

Speaking of the new office, join us this Saturday, April 25th anytime between 9:30am and 12pm for an Open House! My office has moved from where Representative Kosel conducted her business and I’d encourage everyone to come out and see the new space. The office is located at 11032 W Lincoln Hwy in Frankfort. 

Teen Driving
I’m hosting a teen driving safety seminar on May 9th from 11am-1pm at the New Lenox Village Hall. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office will be on hand with safety information and information about the Graduated Driving License program. Different rules and laws exist for teen drivers at different ages and it is important to understand this information to avoid getting in trouble. There will also be a distracted driving simulator so teens can see just how dangerous it can be to use a cellphone or get distracted in any other way while driving. Space is limited so please have your teen registered by emailing