Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
March 27, 2017
In This Issue:
- Great News for NIU
- Bills Proceed Through House Committees
- New State Cybersecurity Strategy Announced
- Youth Council Presses Officials
- New Identification Cards Available for Those with Disabilities
- Local Firefighters Visit the Capitol
- Pension Reform Proposal Filed
Great News for NIU
Recruitment of students to attend Northern Illinois University (NIU) got a big push with the recent rankings of an independent online publication. College Choice–that seeks to help students select the right college—named NIU third best among public universities and ninth best among all colleges and universities in Illinois.
The publication was impressed that NIU offers the opportunities of a large university while providing the personalized experience of a small college. NIU offers 57 undergraduate majors and 73 minors with several recognized nationally for their quality and instruction. However, NIU students can work one-on-one with faculty on research from year one, find hands-on learning opportunities in hundreds of classes and have opportunities for work internships.
College Choice also pointed to the First- and Second-Year Experience programs that help pave the way to success for new students. NIU students also can participate in more than 200 clubs and organizations, study abroad and make the world a better place through volunteerism locally, nationally and globally.
That quality and diversity, according to the publication, translates into an excellent return on investment. NIU alumni can be found in high-level posts all over the country working in major accounting firms, as judges and medical professionals, as executives in a wide range of industries and even the Illinois General Assembly. Go Huskies!
Bills Proceed Through House Committees
With 58 committees created for the 100th General Assembly, more bills than usual are moving through the legislative process to be considered, debated, and voted on in the House. By opening the gate wider for more of the over 4,000 bills to be considered; legislators, organizations and citizens are finding it hard to review the bills in a timely manner.
The deadline for bills to pass out of committee by this Friday has added pressure to move legislation to the House floor. Many pieces of legislation heard in committee this past week need further work in hopes of removing opposition. Sponsors were frequently heard saying they would hold their bills on second reading while they amend them in hopes of removing opposition and garnering more support before a vote is taken on the House Floor.
New State Cybersecurity Strategy Announced
Governor Rauner and the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) announced a new effort to upgrade the state’s technology systems in order to make Illinois more cyber-secure. With state agencies performing services and handling information from thousands of businesses and millions of Illinois residents on their servers, it is necessary to ensure that this sensitive information is protected in the best way possible.
Potential cyber-attacks have become a top issue not only for Illinois, but also for states across the country. The current systems in place can no longer adequately support the sensitive information held, and new systems are necessary to provide added security and prevent any harm.
The new broad based cybersecurity plan outlines five strategic goals to protect state information systems. These goals include: protecting the state of Illinois information and systems, reducing cyber-risk, providing best-in-class cybersecurity capabilities, an enterprise approach to cybersecurity and creating a cyber secure Illinois.
It is believed that this plan will save taxpayers millions of dollars in the long-run, as it will make state agencies more efficient through a streamlined process—while better equipping agencies to protect information against any outside threats.
Youth Council Presses State Officials
Unlike typical student groups that visit the state Capitol, my Youth Advisory Council came to Springfield last week loaded with questions and pressing their ideas. Among their visits were the Governor, Comptroller, legislative leaders from both parties, a lobbyist and state staff.
Perhaps it was their high school courses, my briefings or the over-view given by State Journal Register political columnist Bernie Schoenburg, but the students were ready with questions about state operations, high cost of a college education, failure to pay state bills, and what officials were doing to improve the future of Illinois.
Governor Rauner responds to questions from DeKalb’s Michael Mitchell and others
Time after time the student’s questions had to be cut short to get to the next appointment. The officials told me later how impressed they were with the questions, engagement of the students and their knowledge.
It was interesting after visits with legislative leaders and the Governor to hear the new Comptroller say her job should not have to decide which important state service or program are funded and which must wait to be paid. The former state legislator said it’s the job of the legislature to pass a budget.
The youth also were able to tour the state capitol building, visit the Lincoln Presidential Museum and view a legislative session.
New Identification Cards Available for Those with Disabilities
The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) announces the availability of special identification cards for those who may have trouble communicating with others. The cards can be requested for anyone 16 years of age or older who has been diagnosed with an intellectual, developmental or mental disability.
This card was created in part to help Illinois residents who may face challenges when encountered by police officers or other first responders. The cards were greeted favorably by law enforcement officers who believe this initiative can be helpful when determining how best to help residents.
These special ID cards are available at all Drivers Services facilities operated by the Illinois Secretary of State. The application, which must be cosigned by a physician, can be found here.
Local Firefighters Visit the Capitol
I had a chance to visit with firefighters from the DeKalb and Sycamore Fire Departments about the new identification cards for those with communication difficulties as they visited Springfield last week. These first responders came to visit with legislators, discuss legislation affecting their work and to watch the legislative process.
It is always informative to meet with the firefighters who work hard to keep our communities and residents safe. Perhaps it is an infatuation with sirens and big fire trucks left over from my childhood, but I enjoy listening to their experiences and learn about their knowledge and skills needed to do their work. Their dedication does not stop when they leave a work shift as we witnessed recently when DeKalb fireman Jared Thorp, while off-duty, saved a life. He will receive the state’s Medal of Honor in May.
Pension Reform Proposal Filed
Discouraged over inaction with the Senate’s “Grand Bargain” and impatient with efforts to reduce the state’s annual pension payments, a group of House Republicans filed HB4027 last Friday. The proposal aligns with a bill in the Grand Bargain package that would reduce pension liability by about $2.25 billion and make significant strides in moving toward a balanced budget.
While I support elements of this pension reform proposal, I am concerned that portions of the legislation are unconstitutional and will delay reaching a pension solution while the matter works its way through the courts. I am hopeful that this proposal might be a step towards a negotiated solution that protects the hard-earned benefits of Illinois working families while ensuring the future solvency of our pension systems.
Have a great week and call me in Springfield to share your opinions or if I can be of assistance.