December 30, 2014 Happy New Year!
In This Issue:
Special Session is both Unconstitutional and Expensive
New Laws Take Effect
Yes Virginia, There is a Four-Year Degree
New Year’s Resolutions
Some of you may already be aware that the Illinois Legislature will be sworn into office on Wednesday, January 14th at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Public Affairs Center Auditorium. I would like to personally invite you to be my guest at the inauguration ceremony. You will be part of history as the 99th General Assembly is seated and organized. Following the ceremony I will give a guided tour of the Capitol and host a luncheon. If you are interested in attending, please contact my office for details at (815) 748-3494.
Special Session is both Unconstitutional and Expensive
With the holiday season upon us, you may not be following the news about filling the vacancy in the office of State Comptroller created by the death of Judy Baar Topinka. Never in our 198 year history have we in Illinois faced the situation of a state office vacancy at the end of one term and beginning of another term.
Governor Quinn has called a special session of the legislature for January 8 to pass legislation establishing a special election in 2016 to fill the State Comptroller position. While such an election sounds reasonable and would follow how vacancies in some units of local government are handled, it violates our constitution for state office holders. Therefore, I believe the goal of the special session is both unnecessarily expensive and unconstitutional.
Not only is the cost of a special session unnecessary since the legislature could consider some action when it meets in regular session later in January, but also the cost of litigation over the constitutionality of this action would be great. If we want to set up a different way to handle vacancies, let the legislature pass a constitutional amendment that citizens could ratify in 2016.
As for the vacancy in Comptroller, why not combine the office with the State Treasurer and appoint the Treasurer to also be the Comptroller? Many have proposed this idea for saving millions of dollars in the cost of running a separate office and the idea was supported by the late Judy Barr Topinka. Then the legislature would have time to pass a constitutional amendment consolidating the offices. This would certainly shake-up Springfield.
New Laws Take Effect
The legislature passed over 500 laws in 2014 and many take effect on January 1st. For a full list of new laws, please visit my website at www.pritchardstaterep.org/new_laws_in_effect. Here are a few of the more significant new regulations which I haven’t covered in earlier newsletters.
• PA 98-0650 (SB 3411) Ban Police Ticket Quotas
The law prohibits county, municipal, conservation, and state police agencies from implementing ticket quotas. Officers may still be evaluated on “points of contact,” including the number of traffic stops completed, arrests, written warnings and crime prevention measures. This is an initiative to refocus law enforcement on public safety instead of revenue generation.
• PA 98-0698 (SB 3433) Boating Safety Certificates
Provides that no one born on or after January 1, 1998 shall operate a motorboat with more than 10 horse power without securing a valid Boating Safety Certificate from the Department of Natural Resources or another approved agency.
• PA 98-0746 (HB 5895) Nighttime BiOptic driving permits
Allows persons using non-traditional visual aid instruments, such as BiOptics, to apply for a special, restricted driver’s training permit. Currently, no process exists for drivers who wear BiOptic lenses to practice driving prior to taking the nighttime road test. BiOptic glasses are vision enhanced lenses with extreme magnification.
• PA 98-0774 (HB 5701) ‘Ban the Box’ bill
Prohibits employers from seeking information regarding a potential employee’s criminal history until after an invitation to interview or a conditional offer of employment has been extended. This is intended to allow job seekers with criminal history to be considered on their merits and experience rather than being dismissed out-of-hand for an offense.
• PA 98-0775 (SB 2636) Use of medical cannabis for minors
Amends the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act to allow individuals including those under the age 18 to use medical marijuana for seizures and epilepsy. The Illinois Department of Public Health may create rules saying minors must have parental consent, have the recommendation of two medical doctors and may not smoke the cannabis.
• PA 98-0870 (SB 2583) “Sign and drive” in Illinois
This new law institutes “sign and drive” in Illinois by prohibiting the confiscation of a motorist’s driver’s license as bail when stopped and cited for a minor (no jail time) traffic offense. Since 9-11, state-issued photo identification has become a necessity for such things as travel, gaining access to some buildings, obtaining health-care, and renting vehicles. The driver’s license is still the standard, accepted form of photo identification.
• PA 98-0977 (SB 3506) Emergency Medical Treatment
Seeks to avoid confusion in the type of care that a medical facility provides from the name it uses. A facility may not use emergency or similar name unless there is an emergency room connected with the facility. The Act provides that a person, facility, or entity is not prohibited from holding itself to the public as an “urgent” care center.
• PA 98-1050 (HB 8) Workplace Pregnancy Accommodations
Provides that it is a civil rights violation if employers do not make reasonable accommodations for employees with conditions commonly related to childbirth or pregnancy. Further, employers cannot require a job applicant or employee to accept accommodations; to require an employee to take leave for a medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy; or to retaliate against a person who has requested, attempted to request, used, or attempted to use a reasonable accommodation.
• PA 98-1089 (SB 352) Internet sales tax collection
Will allow the state to use an Internet “click-through” relationship as a way to demand that the Internet retailer collect and remit sales taxes to the State of Illinois.
• PA 98-1052 (HB961) Faster Transfer of Funds
Amends the State Revenue Sharing Act and the Illinois Income Tax Act by requiring the transfers from the General Revenue Fund to the Local Government Distributive Fund no later than 60 days after the State Comptroller receives the certification of the amounts from the Treasurer. In the past, transfers have been intentionally delayed much longer.
Yes Virginia, there is a 4-Year Degree
In a parody of the child’s letter about Santa Claus, Complete College America wants to burst the myth that it takes longer than 4 years and mountains of debt to get a college degree. On their web site (completecollege.org) they outline best practices of students and colleges to achieve the goal of an affordable college education.
With college students home on break, it’s a good time to talk about progress toward a degree and the cost of an education. For example is the full-time student taking at least 15 credit hours of classes per semester? Are they following structured schedules to achieve their degree? Too many students take more credit hours than necessary for the degree. Are they using guided pathways to identify their career goal?
Colleges and universities must continue to reduce their cost of operations and encourage students to accept the counseling and tutoring necessary to be successful. For students ill-prepared for college, more universities and colleges should be offering co-requisite remediation course work. Almost no students complete college when they just take non-credit remedial classes.
A degree beyond high school is still essential for the jobs of the 21st century and a desirable income. Then too students must be working for marketable skills and employment that will repay the cost of the education.
New Year’s Resolutions
As we approach the dawning of a new year there is reason for optimism despite huge fiscal problems facing Illinois. Citizens elected Bruce Rauner their governor to bring some much needed change to state policies and procedures.
Here are a few New Year’s resolutions for the Governor-Elect to get our state back on track. Resolve to make Illinois a business-friendly state. A recent Gallup poll gave Illinois an “F” in all things related to business. Instead of favoring big business, why not help small businesses to succeed since they employ nearly half of the private-sector workforce and contribute two-thirds of the job creation according to a Chicago Tribune article.
Resolve to balance the budget. As I have worked on several appropriation committees over the last decade, I’ve seen first-hand the gimmicks to get a so-called balanced budget by overstating revenue and understating expenses. Yes, we will have to cut expenses but that can be done with the suggestions of front-line workers, more efficient procedures, less fraud and by helping those who can to get off public aid and back to work.
Illinois should also resolve to fix the pension pressure on the budget, school funding inequities and inadequacies, and how the state generates revenue. These are all issues that have been facing us for years but the citizens want officials to throw out partisan politics and roll-up their sleeves to solve these issues. There is a new governor who campaigned on changing the procedures; appointing people to agency management with experience and desire to operate more efficiently and effectively for our citizens.
There is much more we could resolve but these are good places to start and the results would change the state’s reputation and outlook of our citizens.
May the hope, joy, peace, and love of this holiday season remain with you through the New Year. May your resolutions all come true. And may the God of all creation continue to bless you, Illinois, and the United States of America.