The McDermed Dispatch for May 18th

There are just two weeks left before the House is scheduled to adjourn. I’m continuing to work diligently to get as much done as I can for the 37th district in the remaining time. 
Chicago Downgraded
            In a reaction to the Illinois’ Supreme Court decision to strike down the 2013 pension reform law, Moody’s downgraded Chicago’s credit rating to a level considered to be “junk” status. Being downgraded makes it more difficult and expensive for the city to borrow money because it means that a rater has formally acknowledged the material risk that Chicago may on a future date fail to repay its bondholders in full and the city may default on its debts. Last Friday’s decision, while not surprising, still came as a huge blow and has added pressure to the working group currently discussing pension reform.
Tort Reform
            Many business groups say that Illinois is a ‘lawsuit friendly’ state, which impedes the growth of the economy here and affects the amount of jobs. In the second Committee of the Whole in as many weeks, the House listened to testimony from victims of medical malpractice and corporate negligence. The daylong hearing heard heart wrenching testimony designed to put a human face on lawsuits.
           Those testifying from other states said that caps on damages in their states didn’t allow them to receive what a judge and jury had awarded them. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled in 2010 that limits on damages awarded to victims of medical negligence are unconstitutional. Instead, Governor Rauner has proposed addressing setting geographic limits on lawsuits to stop trial lawyers from shopping for venues, restricting medical expense calculations to include amounts paid rather than billed, and allowing defendants to spread their liability to other parties. Those issues did not get properly addressed during the hearing as representatives from the business community or other relevant communities were noticeably not invited to testify.
House Resolution 55
            Media investigations, sparked by the lucrative severance package given to former College of DuPage president Robert Breuder, uncovered numerous shoddy spending practices by the college trustees. Members of the House unanimously approved HR 55, a resolution which launches a comprehensive audit of the college by the State Auditor General, the cost of which will be taken on by the school. The public outcry has been swift and clear; three new trustees were brought on to the board in April’s elections.
Madigan’s Right to Work Fails
            On Thursday, Speaker Madigan put forth a vote which would allow local voters, through the petition process and referendums, to make union membership voluntary rather than mandatory in their communities. Allowing for local areas to determine for themselves whether they would like to create such employee empowerment zones, or right to work areas, has been promoted by the Governor, but the governor hasn’t filed a bill with the Legislature. Instead, in a political exercise from the Speaker designed to put legislators in the hot seat before details have even been discussed, the speaker used up valuable legislative time on a proposal intended to fail. Speaker Madigan’s measure received zero yes votes. In a rare move, the Speaker voted down his own amendment. Most Republicans voted present to protest the highly irregular process through which this legislation was introduced. The Speaker bypassed the committee process and the chance to discuss the bill in a bipartisan manner. It was unfortunately a measure to create conflict and steer the debate away from real reform which can create jobs. As Lincoln said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” and Madigan seems intent on dividing the House.
Property Tax Bills
            In another ploy to derail the Governor’s plans for reform, two House Democrats, Representatives John Bradley and Jack Franks, filed property tax freeze amendments to one of Speaker Madigan’s shell bills. On Friday, we discussed one sponsored by Rep. Franks. The debate got heated because legislators were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Illinois has the second highest property taxes in America; no one was disputing that we need reform. However, what we were presented with was neither a well-developed nor well-crafted proposal that was rushed to the floor by Speaker Madigan. The sponsor had no estimates as to the effect this will have on our local governments and schools. Even though the amendment was adopted, the bill isn’t expected to become law.
           As we have been doing, Republicans in the House chose as a caucus to vote “present” as a message that we won’t participate in these types of political maneuvers by Speaker Madigan and the legislative majority. I am committed to property tax reform, but passing irresponsible and non-comprehensive reforms, which would tie the hands of local governments and offer no relief through other means, is the wrong approach.
Summer Reading Club
            Summer is fast approaching and kids will be on break soon. I’ve decided to start a reading club for local elementary school kids to help keep their minds engaged during the summer months.  This year’s theme is “Going Places with Reading” because when a child reads their imaginations are jump started and the possibilities are endless. Participants who read 8 books over the summer break are invited to an ice cream party in August where there will be drawings for prizes and they will receive an official certificate. Local libraries and schools have all been given a copy of the brochure with the appropriate form, so make sure your child gets theirs! Contact the office if you have any questions about the club or how to participate. The deadline is August 7th, so start reading!