Residents from throughout McHenry County and beyond are invited to attend this year’s annual Festival of the Sugar Maples. The event will take place March 3-4 and March 10-11 from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM at the Coral Woods Conservation Area, 7400 Somerset in Marengo.

Attendees can hear how maple syrup was made hundreds of years ago and how learn how maple trees produce sap each spring that is collected and made into syrup. In cooperation with the festival, the local Lion’s Club will be holding a pancake breakfast on Sunday, March 4 and Sunday, March 11 from 7:00 AM until noon at the Union Fire Protection District, 6606 Main Street in Union ($3 for children, $6 for adults).
State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) has released the final results of a recent legislative survey which showed that taxpayers believe elected officials should have to prove taxpayer savings before placing a road district consolidation question before voters.

Between January 23 and February 19, a survey was available through Reick’s website asking:

“Before placing a referendum question on a ballot, should townships exploring the consolidation of its road district into general operations have to conduct a cost study to ensure services would be maintained and that taxpayers would realize a financial benefit?”

The survey was promoted through press releases, social media and constituent newsletters. A total of 114 people responded to the survey and 104, or 91%, answered that yes, consolidation should only be done when it will result in savings for taxpayers.

“I filed HB 4190 because not every consolidation proposal saves taxpayers money, and when people are asked to vote a consolidation proposal up or down, they deserve to be acting from a full set of facts,” said Reick. “For whatever reason, some elected officials don’t think people deserve this added layer of transparency. They don’t think it’s important to ensure there would be no unforeseen negative consequences to the consolidation. I’m reminded of the county township consolidation proposal a few years ago here in McHenry County that was voted down by the board at the last minute because it would have raised taxes on residents in half of the county’s townships. If that proposal would have gone before voters, as many of the board members were so anxious to do, there would have been some very unhappy taxpayers when the dust settled and their taxes went up.”

Reick’s bill proposed that before a township could 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.

“My bill was assigned to the House Government Consolidation & Modernization Committee for a February 13 hearing, but the ranking lawmakers on the committee blocked the bill and refused to allow it to be heard,” Reick said. “They promptly buried my HB 4190 in a subcommittee where it would never see the light of day.”

Reick added that on the day the bill was originally to be heard, several people had submitted witness slips either for or against the bill. According to the witness slips on file that morning through the ilga.gov web site, 55 individuals had filed a slip in favor of Reick’s bill and four people had filed slips against it. “At every turn there were a majority of people who were in favor of an independent cost study before a consolidation request went to the ballot,” said Reick. “Those voices were silenced and completely disregarded when the leadership of the committee decided to kill the bill.”

Reick said he has not given up on full transparency when it comes to consolidation. “I support consolidation when a case is made that taxes will be reduced,” added Reick. “I’m first in line to say ‘yes-consolidate’ when taxpayers savings can be achieved. But we’re missing an important layer of transparency. The consequences of the consolidation, financial and otherwise, need to be known ahead of time and not after the fact.”
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.