The McDermed Dispatch for Aug 17

       What happened in Springfield this past week was unfortunately the kind of games and politics you always hear about. Senate Bill 2042, as it passed overwhelmingly and in a bipartisan manner originally from the Senate, would allow almost $5 billion in federal dollars to “pass through” the state. In the absence of a budget, many important state programs and social services have been unable to access this money. This legislation was very important and because it did not require any state funds, it thereby avoided the contentious ongoing debate about the state budget. All sides called for the bill to be kept ‘clean’, meaning that the legislation should pass the other chamber without amendments or alterations so that it could quickly signed by the Governor and implemented. It was verbally agreed to on all sides that this be the case.
        However, political games were again played and last Monday an amendment was filed by House Democrats. By adding the amendment, the House had added hundreds of millions in state spending and delayed any immediate action on the bill. In committee Republicans reasonably asked that the amendment be added to another bill so that the vital services in SB 2042 could quickly get through the legislative process instead of being held up. However, those pleas were rebuffed. After a rollercoaster debate that threatened to derail the entire process, eventually the Democrats agreed to a bipartisan solution, where the amendment was removed and another put in its place.
       With the Senate’s concurrence this week, this measure will help critical human services, child services, public health services, and student assistance programs. And based on the fact that this appropriations bill is entirely comprised of federal dollars, Governor Rauner has committed to signing the measure. While it is unfortunate that the bill cannot be sent to the Governor sooner because it was amended, it now includes previously omitted funding for homeland security that was suggested by House Republicans.

       Wednesday’s vote on SB2042 will offer many programs a reprieve as they can access federal funds. That federal money will impact groups and programs such as IEMA, senior care, and children and family services. The courts have further ruled to continue state spending in other areas including ruling that state workers continue to be paid, which is why, despite not having a budget, we are not technically considered in a ‘government shutdown’. Another recent court ruling ordered that the state continue Medicaid payments for children. Senate Democrats released findings last week that estimated that nearly 90% of state spending has now been committed to because of the various court rulings and actions taken by the Rauner administration.

Amazon now in Joliet

       Amazon, the online retailing firm, which stockpiles and forwards much (but not all) of the goods sold on its website, has opened its first sorting and order fulfillment center in Illinois. The 500,000-square-foot Joliet-based facility will carry out chores that are intended to increase the proportion of goods that can be delivered to Chicago-area customers on the day an electronic order is placed. The fulfillment center’s capabilities go well beyond those of a traditional warehouse.
       The fulfillment center will specialize in the warehousing, sorting, and delivery preparation of books, small electronics, and consumer goods. The site’s startup has created an estimated 1,000 Illinois jobs. The company has suggested that if the State is able to improve its business climate, they may open multiple fulfillment centers and other facilities in the Chicago area by 2017.


        The bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) held a hearing this past Tuesday on Governor Rauner’s changes to the state childcare system. The 12 member committee, created in 1977, reviews administrative policies and rules set by State agencies. The two purposes of JCAR are to ensure that the General Assembly is adequately informed of how laws are implemented through agency rulemaking and to facilitate public understanding of rules and regulations.
       The hearing last week was an attempt to block the governor’s recent changes to the Child Care Assistance Program. The effort would have needed a supermajority, which it did not get as the commission voted 6-4 on party lines. The governor implemented emergency rules which it argues are necessary in order to manage the state’s finances without a budget. Opponents to these cost saving measures, which lower the number of families eligible for the program, say these changes are unnecessary.


        A new law will toughen the rules intended to reduce and prevent athletic concussions. The Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act mandates that school with athletic programs develop rapid-response concussion emergency action plans that will enable medical help to be obtained and prompt care available in cases of actual or suspected head injuries. Parallel mandates are placed on youth sports leagues and on park districts that organize youth sports activities. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and other affected groups will develop rules and policies to implement the new law, which went into effect immediately and will apply to the 2015 high school football season.

       As I’m sure many of you have heard by now, the school board has reached the decision to close Lincoln Way North. It is a very sad situation and I feel for those families that will be impacted by this closure. As a property tax paying resident of Lincoln-Way High School District 210, I will be carrying the tax burden for these schools alongside all of you. I feel the passionate involvement of parents, students, and staff will continue to be one of Lincoln-Way’s greatest strengths. I will press forward in my fight to improve our state’s economy so that the state can fully fund education.