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Click here to watch the live stream of the Governor's annual budget address at noon today.
Lawmakers Return to Springfield for Start of 2018 Session
Lawmakers are back in Springfield for the 2018 legislative session. Members of the House and Senate gathered in joint session on January 31 to hear Governor Bruce Rauner’s annual State of the State address, and during the 45-minute speech the Governor struck a positive tone as he spoke about the continued need for bipartisan solutions that will grow the Illinois economy and restore public trust.

The Governor will present his annual budget address next week on Wednesday, February 14. The speech will be streamed live, and can be accessed at www.ilga.gov, by clicking on the House audio/video link.

Reick Champions Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter Legislation
This year I am serving as a Chief Co-Sponsor of legislation that would significantly reform Illinois’ budget process. The “Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter,” filed in Springfield as HB 4229, gives broad power to taxpayers, limits lawmakers’ ability to create new and unfunded entitlement programs, stops the flow of unfunded mandates toward schools and local government, and ensures the pension system’s stability.

Specifically, HB 4229 includes:
  • A two-year freeze in discretionary State spending; the freeze would continue after the deadline if at that point the State is unable to pay vendors within 30 days 
  • A prohibition against adding any new programs or expansions of existing programs unless a full pension payment - based on actuarial requirements - is made 
  • A requirement that any new legislation which creates new spending include an identified revenue source or identified cuts to an existing program to pay for the new spending
  • A mandatory 72-hour online posting of the General Assembly’s proposed new fiscal year budget prior to passage
Lawmakers must take serious action to address reckless spending, and the provisions included in HB 4229 represent a major first step in addressing Illinois’ financial problems. HB 4229 is awaiting assignment to a substantive committee.

Reick’s 2018 Legislative Agenda Focuses on Taxpayer Protection Issues
This is the time of year when lawmakers are filing the bills they hope to advance during the 2018 legislative session. I have filed eight House Bills that I hope to usher into law this year. They include:
  • HB 4190: Requires an independent cost study to prove taxpayer savings before a question about consolidation of a road district is placed on a ballot for township voters
  • HB 4304:Provides property tax relief to seniors who have a federal adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less
  • HB 4305: Adds a county designation to all individual income tax forms to aid with the study of movement of Illinoisans from county to county within the state
  • HB 4308: Adjusts the notification period required for written notice to be mailed to any teacher who is losing his or her job due to a school board decision to decrease the number of teachers employed by a district
  • HB 4350: Based on levy issues tied to our own Valley Hi Nursing Home, this bill would provide county board members with the authority to suspend a tax line levy amount for nursing home purposes, so that surplus funds can be spent down with no future levying penalty
  • HB 4580: Provides that a rescue squad district may, by ordinance, submit a referendum to voters for an annual tax for the purpose of providing funds to pay the costs of emergency and rescue crews and equipment, and limits the amount of the tax rate to no more than 0.10% of the value of all taxable property within the district
Still Time to Take Road District Consolidation Survey
If you have not yet weighed in on my short road consolidation survey, you still have time. My short survey, available here, seeks to gather input about whether road district consolidation requests should only be allowed after public officials prove their case that the consolidation would save taxpayers money. 

As you may recall, I recently filed HB 4190, a measure that would require a cost study be conducted before a township’s trustees could take action to put a consolidation proposal before voters. Any consulting firm with an existing agreement for services in the township in question or in the county where the township is located would be prohibited from conducting the study. While I fully support consolidation that results in actual taxpayer savings, consolidation just for the sake of consolidation- when taxes don’t go down or possibly would actually increase- is not in the best interest of taxpayers. What’s missing is an accountability layer. I believe we need an additional step of transparency so trustees and voters aren’t voting on a measure that could have unforeseen negative consequences.

There are some who do not think elected officials should have to make their case for taxpayer savings before bringing consolidation proposals before voters. I think taxpayers would take issue with that, and would prefer that elected officials are working from a full set of facts before they ask voters to weigh in on a consolidation proposal. I will accept survey responses through the end of the day on Friday, February 16.

Metra Seeks Public Input on Proposed Fare Structure
Metra is seeking input from customers regarding potential changes to fare structure and ticket options at several public forums this February. A forum in Crystal Lake was held on Monday of this week, but input on the proposed changes can also be shared online here. To learn more about the proposed changes and for a full list of the remaining hearings, click here.

Electronic Renewal Process Available for Renewal of Disabled Parking Placards
The Secretary of State’s (SOS) Office is now offering an electronic renewal process for all persons renewing their disabled parking placards. In addition to making the renewal process easier, it will also help to combat fraud. Any current placard holder may start the renewal process prior to their medical re-certification. Then, at the time of their medical visit, the medical professional may complete the process by providing the necessary medical information through documents that can be sent to the SOS office for processing. At this time the electronic renewal process is only available for renewals. It is not available to new placard applicants. The new system does not replace the existing paper system. Patients and medical professionals may still avail themselves of the paper process. Those who have questions about this new electronic renewal system are encouraged to call the SOS’s legislative affairs department at (217) 782-6640.

Thirteen Chicagoland Athletes Participate in 2018 Winter Olympic Games
The Winter Games get underway this evening in PyeongChang, South Korea, and 13 athletes who either live or grew up in Chicago and the suburbs will be representing Team USA in a variety of sports. They include:
  • Kevin Bicker, 21, of Wauconda: Ski Jumping
  • Michael Glasder, 28, of Cary: Ski Jumping
  • Casey Larson, 19, of Barrington: Ski Jumping
  • Bradie Tennell, 20, of Carpentersville: Figure Skating
  • Alexa Scimeca Knierim, 26, Addison, and her husband Christopher: Pairs Figure Skating
  • Brian Hansen, 27, of Glenview: Speedskating
  • Lana Gehring, 27, of Glenview: Speedskating
  • Emery Lehman, 21, of Oak Park: Speedskating
  • Shani Davis, 35, of Chicago: Speedskating
  • Aja Evans, 29, of Chicago: Bobsled
  • Kendall Coyne, 25, of Palos Heights: Hockey
  • Hilary Knight, 28, of Lake Forest: Hockey
Bicker, Glasder and Larson have already advanced to the medal round on Saturday for ski jumping.

Skating for Team U.S.A. on the Men’s Olympic Hockey team are the following players who have played either for the Chicago Blackhawks or the Chicago Wolves: James Wisniewski and John McCarrthy. Hawks or Wolves players who will represent Team Canada include Rene Bourque, Andre Ebbett and Rob Klinkhammer. One former Hawk will play for Team Sweden: Victor Shalberg. Tony Granato, 53, of Downers Grove and Chris Chelios, 56, of Chicago will be coaching the U.S.A. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team. Good luck to these Illinois athletes and coaches and to all who will represent Team U.S.A. at this year’s Olympic Games in South Korea!
State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) is serving as a Chief Co-Sponsor of legislation that would significantly reform Illinois’ budget process.

The “Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter,” filed in Springfield as HB 4229, gives broad power to taxpayers, limits lawmakers’ ability to create new and unfunded entitlement programs, stops the flow of unfunded mandates toward schools and local government, and ensures the pension system’s stability.

“The State of Illinois is bleeding red ink,” said Reick. “In spite of a serious overspending problem, the majority party lawmakers continue to spend money recklessly by refusing to live within their means. Lawmakers must stop adding new programs and spending initiatives that we simply cannot afford."

Specifically, HB 4229 includes:
  • A two-year freeze in discretionary State spending; the freeze would continue after the deadline if at that point the State is unable to pay vendors within 30 days 
  • A prohibition against adding any new programs or expansions of existing programs unless a full pension payment - based on actuarial requirements - is made 
  • A requirement that any new legislation which creates new spending include an identified revenue source or identified cuts to an existing program to pay for the new spending
  • A mandatory 72-hour online posting of the General Assembly’s proposed new fiscal year budget prior to passage
“Lawmakers must take serious action to address reckless spending, and the provisions included in HB 4229 represent a major first step in addressing Illinois’ financial problems,” said Reick.

HB 4229 is awaiting assignment to a substantive committee.
State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) has published an online survey about whether road district consolidation requests should only be allowed after public officials prove their case that the consolidation would save taxpayers money. The survey is available at www.repstevenreick.com.

Reick filed HB 4190 in mid-January, and the bill would require a cost study be conducted before a township’s trustees could take action to put a consolidation proposal before voters. “Taxpayers and elected leaders seek consolidation because they want lower taxes and I fully support consolidation that achieves that result,” said Reick. “But consolidation just for the sake of consolidation- when taxes don’t go down or possibly would actually increase- that is not in the best interest of taxpayers. What’s missing is an accountability layer; we need an additional step of transparency so trustees and voters aren’t voting on a measure that could have unforeseen negative consequences.”

Specifically, Reick’s HB 4190 would amend the Illinois Highway Code by providing that before a township may submit a referendum to abolish a road district, the township must prepare through an independent contractor a cost study that demonstrates the abolishment is cost-effective and that the township which would assume the road district responsibilities is capable of carrying out the duties performed by the road district slated for elimination. Any consulting firm with an existing agreement for services in the township in question or in the county where the township is located would be prohibited from conducting the study.

“There are some who do not think elected officials should have to make their case for taxpayer savings before bringing consolidation proposals before voters,” Reick said. “I think taxpayers would take issue with that, and would prefer that elected officials are working from a full set of facts before they ask voters to weigh in on a consolidation proposal.”

Survey responses will be gathered through the end of the day on Friday, February 16.
First Week of 2018 Session Cancelled
Last Friday we learned that the first scheduled session days on the 2018 calendar (January 23 and 24) were cancelled. While I was looking forward to beginning our 2018 work in Springfield, I am spending this week working on local projects and meeting with constituents. The first day of the 2018 session year will now be Tuesday, January 30. On Wednesday the 31st, Governor Bruce Rauner will present his annual State of the State address before a joint session of the House and Senate. This speech is streamed live on the state’s web site. If you would like to tune in to the Governor’s noon address on January 31, visit www.ilga.gov, and click on the link for Audio/Video.

Rep. Steve Reick Files Legislation to Require Cost Study to Ensure Township Road District Consolidations Save Money
Taxpayers and elected leaders seek consolidation because they want lower taxes. I fully support consolidation that results in lower taxes. But consolidation just for the sake of consolidation- when taxes don’t go down or possibly would actually increase- that is not in the best interest of taxpayers. What’s missing is an accountability layer; we need an additional step of transparency so trustees and voters aren’t voting on a measure that could have unforeseen negative consequences.

On January 16 I filed legislation that would require a cost analysis to determine if consolidation proposals will actually save taxpayers money. HB 4190 serves as a trailer bill to clarify two pieces of legislation approved earlier this year (SB 03 and HB 607). The bill would require a cost study be conducted before a township’s trustees could take action to put a consolidation proposal before voters. Specifically, the bill would amend the Illinois Highway Code by providing that before a township may submit a referendum to abolish a road district, the township must prepare through an independent contractor a cost study that demonstrates the abolishment is cost-effective and that the township which would assume the road district responsibilities is capable of carrying out the duties performed by the road district slated for elimination. Any consulting firm with an existing agreement for services in the township in question or in the county where the township is located would be prohibited from conducting the study.

Governor Rauner Vetoes Bill to Increase Powers of McHenry County Board Chairman
 In a solid victory for the citizens of McHenry County, Governor Bruce Rauner recently issued a full veto of HB 171, which would codify in state statutes powers granted to specific county board chairmen with regard to appointing members to standing committees. The bill was written to specifically apply to McHenry County, in spite of the fact that in 2012 county voters voted 2:1 against a referendum that would expand the powers of the leader of the McHenry County Board.

In his veto message to the General Assembly, Rauner condemned the practice of codifying in state law carve-outs and special solutions that only apply to certain counties and that respond to specific local concerns. “Passing state law on such specific question of local authority undermines local control and the ability to create rules as elected Board’s may deem appropriate,” said Rauner. “Questions concerning the balance of power within local governments can be most appropriately reconsidered by local voters. Just as the citizens of a county can vote via referendum on whether their county adopts an executive form of government, so too should they be able to determine the appropriate power balance in question in this bill.” HB 171 can return to the House and Senate for an attempted veto override, but a 2/3 vote in each chamber is required. The November House vote on HB 171 was 63-48-1, and in an override, 71 votes will be needed.

State-Sponsored School Library Grants Approved for 11 Districts Located within the Reick House District
I was pleased to learn recently that $17,381 in state-sponsored school library grant money will soon be flowing to 11 school districts located in the 63rd Legislative District. The School District Library Grant Program is designed to help provide more library books and materials for students attending public schools in Illinois. The state legislature has authorized up to a $.75 per pupil expenditure for qualifying schools. The grant award is based on funds appropriated by the General Assembly and the official enrollment as of the previous September 30th of a school district. Specifically, the following grants are being processed by the Secretary of State’s Office and will then be forwarded to the Comptroller’s office for payment:
  • Harvard CUSD #50: $1,865.25
  • Alden-Hebron Community Consolidated Unit #19: $750.00
  • Johnsburg CUSD #12: $1,359.00
  • Riley Community Consolidated School District #18: $750.00
  • Marengo-Union Community School District #165: $750.00
  • Marengo Community High School District #154: $750.00
  • McHenry CCSD #15: $3,262.50
  • McHenry Community High School District #156: $1,669.50
  • Nippersink School District #2: $845.25
  • Richmond Burton CHSD #157: $750.00
  • Woodstock CUSD #200: $4,629.75
Reick and Wheeler Petition ICC for Local Hearing on Proposed Utilities, Inc. Rate Hike
This week Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) and I sent a letter to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), asking officials to hold a local public hearing to gather testimony from Johnsburg and Antioch residents who would be affected by a massive sewer and water rate hike proposed by Utilities, Inc. My office has been inundated with calls and emails from constituents that would be affected by this increase, which I’m told would be the third rate increase for water and sewer since 2009. These residents, many of whom are living on fixed incomes, have asked us to help facilitate a local platform where they can come and provide testimony on how this latest rate increase would affect their family budgets, and for some, their ability to remain in their homes.

In 2009, Utilities Inc. serviced the affected area at a monthly rate of $5.14 and consumption rates of $3.14 per 1,000 gallons. If the latest request is approved by the ICC, those customers would soon have to pay a rate of $35.03 per month with consumption rates of $11.08 per 1,000 gallons; a 353% increase in water/sewer service costs in just eight years. Considering the Consumer Price Index has only risen 13 percent since 2009, increasing rates by more than 350 percent for a necessity like water is extreme. We have offered to help coordinate the meeting. To read our joint letter to the ICC, click here.

IL Department of Veterans Affairs to Honor 200 Veterans During “Honor 200” Event
Do you know a veteran who has served honorably and whose contributions have gone above and beyond the call of duty? The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Bicentennial Committee are partnering on an “Honor 200” event which will publicly recognize the work of 200 courageous veterans who live in Illinois. The veterans will be honored at a major celebration of statehood that will be held at the United Center in Chicago on December 3, 2018.

Nominations are now being accepted. If you would like to submit a nomination, please use this link to access the documents. All nominations must be submitted by July 31, 2018. Completed nomination packets should be mailed to:

Illinois Depart of Veterans’ Affairs
George Dunne County Building
69 West Washington, Suite 1620
Chicago, IL 60602-3013

Illinois Loses 88,000 People During Economic Recovery
The U.S. Census’s ongoing study of American population growth and movement patterns indicates that Illinois’ population is shrinking in size. The Land of Lincoln has about 88,000 fewer people than in 2013. Should these trends continue, Illinois will be on track to relinquish at least one and possibly two congressional districts after the 2020 census. Illinois currently has 18 U.S. representatives, down from 26 as recently as 1953. Illinois’ shrinking population is attributed to high taxes, disproportionate non-tax burdens on employment such as workers’ compensation and the cost of medical care, and an increasingly aggressive eagerness by other states to develop a pro-business climate. A study in 2016 by the nonpartisan Paul Simon Institute found that nearly half of the Illinoisans surveyed expressed a desire to leave Illinois. For many other states, including neighboring states such as Iowa and Wisconsin, this percentage is below 10%. 

Chicago Makes the Cut to Top 20 in Amazon’s HQ2 Search
On Thursday, January 18, Amazon released a list of 20 cities and metro areas, including Chicago, that meet the criteria set forth by the company for the location of a second national headquarters. In late 2017, Amazon asked cities in North America to submit plans and proposals to initiate a major expansion. The stated criteria for selecting a location for potential expansion included a city within an urban area with more than one million people and within 45 minutes of an international airport. The presence of mass-transit infrastructure was described as strongly desirable but not essential. The firm stated that it was their intent to create a research, development, and logistics management complex that could support as many as 50,000 jobs. Other major cities on the list included Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City and northern New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. and the Capital Beltway.

Trustees Approve Fourth Consecutive Tuition Freeze at University of Illinois
The tuition freeze, now in its fourth year, reflects efforts made by the University of Illinois trustees and system to limit cost increases and make it possible for in-state residents to afford to attend the state’s flagship university. As a result of the freeze, Illinois residents accepted for admission at the three universities that form the University of Illinois system will pay $12,036 a year at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), $10,584 at Chicago (UIC), and $9,405 at Springfield (UIS). The tuition freeze continues to provide relief for many in-state students attending the three campuses of the University of Illinois. However, the freeze does not affect other costs of enrollment at UIUC, UIC, and UIS. Costs relating to housing, meals, student fees, and education-related expenses such as textbooks continue to increase.

New Law Increases Penalties for Repeat Gun Offenders
The Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act went into effect January 1. Enacted with support from law enforcement and prosecution professionals, the new law doubles the sentencing guidelines for offenders found guilty, for a second time, of illegal possession of a firearm. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), the lead House sponsor of SB 1722, hailed the new law upon its effective date. I was proud to support this legislation that increases penalties for repeat offenders.

In addition to the unlawful use of a weapon language, SB 1722 also expands the use by first-time firearm offenders of the First Time Weapon Offender Program. Leader Durkin and the General Assembly are fighting to increase penalties for serious gun offenders, many of them gang members, while at the same time providing a second chance to first-time gun offenders who undergo a serious program of rehabilitation and behavioral change. Under SB 1722, the Director of the Illinois State Police is authorized to create a multi-jurisdictional Violent Crime Intelligence Task Force to further study violent and gang-related crime and make additional recommendations for legislative action.
State Representatives Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) and Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) have asked the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to hold a local public hearing to gather testimony from Johnsburg and Antioch residents who would be affected by a massive sewer and water rate hike proposed by Utilities, Inc.

“My office has been inundated with calls and emails from constituents that would be affected by this increase, which I’m told would be the third rate increase for water and sewer since 2009,” said Reick. “These people, many of whom are living on fixed incomes, have asked us to help facilitate a local platform where they can come and provide testimony on how this latest rate increase would affect their family budgets, and for some, their ability to remain in their homes.”

In 2009, Utilities Inc. serviced the affected area at a monthly rate of $5.14 and consumption rates of $3.14 per 1,000 gallons. If the latest request is approved by the ICC, those customers would then have to pay a rate of $35.03 per month with consumption rates of $11.08 per 1,000 gallons; a 353% increase in water/sewer service costs in just eight years.

“Considering the Consumer Price Index has only risen 13 percent since 2009, increasing the cost to residents again, whether on a fixed income or not, by more than 350 percent for a necessity like water is extreme,” said Wheeler. “Residents have the right to public hearing, at the least, before another increase is put into effect, particularly given the dramatic increase in rates already over the past decade.”

Both legislators offered to help coordinate the meeting. To read the joint letter to the ICC, click here.
In a solid victory for the citizens of McHenry County, Governor Bruce Rauner issued a full veto today to HB 171, which would codify in state statutes powers granted to specific county board chairmen with regard to appointing members to standing committees.

“I spoke out against this bill when it was discussed on the floor of the House of Representatives, and urged the Governor to veto it after it was approved by the General Assembly,” said Reick. “The bill was written to specifically apply to McHenry County, in spite of the fact that in 2012 county voters voted 2:1 against a referendum that would expand the powers of the leader of the McHenry County Board. Today the Governor sided with the 75,010 McHenry County voters who resoundingly defeated the idea of an all-powerful County Board Chairman. Voter intent was heard and respected by Governor Rauner today.”

In his veto message to the General Assembly, Rauner condemned the practice of codifying in state law carve-outs and special solutions that only apply to certain counties and that respond to specific local concerns. “Passing state law on such specific question of local authority undermines local control and the ability to create rules as elected Board’s may deem appropriate,” said Rauner.

The Governor went on to say, “Questions concerning the balance of power within local governments can be most appropriately reconsidered by local voters. Just as the citizens of a county can vote via referendum on whether their county adopts an executive form of government, so too should they be able to determine the appropriate power balance in question in this bill.”

When HB 171 was delivered to Rauner for final action, Reick launched a petition drive that was signed by more than 100 citizens who asked the Governor to veto the bill. “All the credit goes to the citizens who saw HB 171 for what it was: a pure power grab; and who responded by urging a full gubernatorial veto,” said Reick, who delivered the petition signatures to the Governor’s office. “This was a good example of how a few voices can make a big difference in government. The message that McHenry County wants a county board chairman with limited powers was heard, and Governor Rauner responded appropriately. I appreciate his full veto.”

HB 171 can return to the House and Senate for an attempted veto override, but a 2/3 vote in each chamber is required. The November House vote on HB 171 was 63-48-1, and in an override, 71 votes will be needed.