Today is National Agriculture Day in Illinois, and State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) is joining Governor Bruce Rauner in encouraging Illinoisans to celebrate the rich agricultural heritage of the state. This is the 45th anniversary of National Ag Day and this year’s theme is “Agriculture: Food for Life.”

“As one of our largest industries, a thriving agricultural sector is crucial for the future viability and prosperity of Illinois,” Gov. Rauner said. “The billions of dollars generated from agricultural production, processing, and manufacturing in Illinois strengthen our rural and urban economies, providing quality jobs across the state. I hope that young Illinoisans recognize the variety of significant roles in agriculture and take advantage of those opportunities.”

Career paths in agriculture have greatly expanded from traditional farm roles to also include agribusiness management, sales and accounting, agronomy, pest control, and a wealth of technical roles. USDA projections show that job opportunities in the agricultural and environmental industries are expected to grow through the year 2020. However, colleges and universities currently train only enough students to fill 61% of the expected 57,900 average annual job openings in those industries. These figures highlight the importance of encouraging young Illinoisans to join and advance the state’s agriculture sector.

In 2017, Illinois had a record high corn yield and a three percent increase in soybean production from the previous year. Home to more than 72,000 farms, Illinois ranks first in soybean and pumpkin production, second in corn production, and fourth in pork production. Additionally, the state leads the nation in food processing sales.

According to the Agriculture Council of America, the amount of people each American farmer feeds has increased from 25 in the 1960s, to more than 165 people today.
Lawmakers Move Bills Through Committees
Legislators finished a busy week in Springfield on Thursday, as dozens of House Bills moved through the committee process and several pieces of legislation made their way to the floor of the House for full debates and votes. As is typical this time of the year, we spent a great deal of time in committees so members’ bills could be heard prior to the April 13 committee action deadline. Lawmakers are now back in their home districts for four weeks to tend to local constituent needs. We return to Springfield on Monday, April 9.

Reick Chosen to Serve on House Higher Education Committee
I’m pleased to announce that effective immediately, I’ll be serving on the Illinois House of Representatives’ Higher Education Committee. I’ll join eight other Republicans and 12 Democrats on the committee, which is charged with considering policy initiatives that would affect the quality and cost of higher education at Illinois’ 12 public institutions of higher learning. This committee meets regularly in Springfield during the regular session months between January and the end of May each year. Since education is one of my key areas of interest, this is an excellent committee assignment. I already serve on two of the K-12 Education committees and I’m pleased to now extend my service to the higher education committee discussions. 

Reick Joins Bipartisan Lawmakers in Urging Governor Rauner to Release County Fair Funding
In McHenry County, students who participate in FFA and 4-H programs look forward to the county fair and the livestock auction at the fair every summer. These auctions offer our youth the opportunity to sell their agriculture products, and many use the money they make from their animals to help pay for college. On Thursday, I joined several Illinois legislators and county fair officials at the Illinois Capitol to showcase the positive economic benefit county fairs bring to the state and urge the Governor to release $1.4 million in funding that was appropriated as part of the current fiscal year budget. 

During the press conference, the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs (IAAF) highlighted the results of a University of Illinois Extension Department of Community and Economic Development study, which revealed that county fairs bring $170 million annually to the state’s economy and support 1,000 non-fair related jobs. In addition to the economic benefit of county fairs, the agricultural component of county fairs is part and parcel of a comprehensive agriculture education in Illinois. With agriculture being our state’s largest industry, it is necessary for us to continue bringing people into the industry, and its incumbent upon us to provide these students with a proper agriculture education.

Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) Releases Reveneue Estimate for Fiscal Year 2019
COGFA, the nonpartisan accounting and State budget-forecasting arm of the Illinois General Assembly, has published its initial estimate of Illinois general revenues for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. For the fiscal year that will start on July 1, 2018, the current forecast is for receipts to continue to increase over FY 2018 levels, albeit at a slower pace than the increase enjoyed in FY 2017. General funds revenues are expected to increase by approximately 3.0% in FY19 over FY18, exclusive of transfer lines. This equates to an increase of $1,029 million in FY19 general funds revenues, from an expected $34,804 million in FY18 to $35,833 million in FY19. While this is a healthy increase, it is once again not sufficient for the State of Illinois to pay its mandated share of the ever-rising cost of medical care for Medicaid line items, cover actuarially required pension cost increases, and pay back old bills in FY19.

My hope is that the legislators in the House of Representatives utilize this data and approve an agreed revenue estimate that will guide budget discussions. The Constitutions requires a balanced budget, and we must agree on projected revenues before we begin allocating monies to be spent.

House Takes Action in Wake of Mass Shooting at Florida School
The Second Amendment is a core element of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The application of the Second Amendment to protect people’s ability to own and keep a firearm has been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court and our Illinois Supreme Court, and I support every American’s Second Amendment rights, as well as all of the other freedoms that we enjoy. Any measure to limit our Constitutional freedoms inflicts a collective punishment upon law-abiding citizens without providing the due process protections that are the foundation of living in a free society. 

Six different gun control bills were brought to the floor of the House for a vote recently. Of these bills, one dealt with an issue that would be better dealt with at the Federal level, one was a clear attempt to burden small businesses, and the others went beyond the issue of ensuring public safety and stepped into the realm of infringing upon core Constitutional rights. Thus, I could not support any of the bills. None of the bills examined the mental health issues that appear to be so big a part of these recent killings, but I’m currently working with one of my House colleagues on legislation that would allow for lethal violence orders of protections against gun owners who have displayed clear signs of mental illness and intent to harm others. As future gun legislation reaches the floor of the House, I will examine each bill through the lens of preserving our due process protections as well as our Second Amendment rights.

Illinois House Passes Bills Intended to Assess Hospitals for Federal Healthcare Funding
Under current federal law, part of Illinois’ federal funding for health care is raised through an assessment process. Funds are collected from Illinois hospitals and used as seed money to request matching funds from Washington, D.C. SB 1573 and SB 1773 allow this assessment program to continue with cash flows reflecting ongoing changes in health care and the health care professions. At the end of February, the House passed SB 1573 by a vote of 110-0-1 and passed SB 1773 by a vote of 107-0-0.

Passage of these two bills was necessary because the current 2008 hospital assessment program will sunset on June 30, 2018. Enactment of this legislation will bring $3.5 billion in federal money into our State to support its healthcare infrastructure. Through a six-month-long cycle of meetings chaired on a bipartisan basis by members of the Illinois General Assembly, Illinois hospitals agreed to the specifications of the new assessment system. One key element of the new assessment system is a program of enhanced funding for challenged Illinois hospitals, including rural and inner-city safety-net hospitals. Of the money generated by these measures, 58% is expected to go to safety-net hospitals.

Illinois Praised as Good Location for Future Job Creation
The rating was bestowed by “Site Selection” Magazine, a CEO-oriented periodical and database that compiles information on the relative activities of U.S. locations for business relocation and job growth. Illinois ranked third in the number of new and expanded facilities per capital tracked by the periodical database, in a ranking called the “Governor’s Cup” by the magazine.

Commentators said Illinois was honored for its transportation infrastructure and relatively affordable real estate. More than 400 new and expanded facilities were tracked moving to or expanding in greater Chicago, exclusive of Lake County, in the 2017 Governor’s Cup rankings. This benchmark, which made greater Chicago the #1 U.S. metropolitan area tracked by “Site Selection” with a population of 1 million or more, powered Illinois’ overall standings. However, Illinois’ strength was not limited to greater Chicago. Three Illinois areas defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as “micropolitan areas,” population centers in predominantly rural environments with a population between 10,000 and 50,000, also scored highly. Strong Illinois micropolitan areas were Ottawa-Peru, Effingham, and Rochelle. All three regions are places where transcontinental railroad service comes together with two or more U.S. Interstate highways.

Mark Your Calendar for Upcoming Summer & Fall Events in the 63rd District
My staff and I are busy planning a comprehensive list of free community events that will be held throughout the summer and fall months in the 63rd District. Mark your calendars now for the following free outreach events that will be sponsored by my office in the coming months: 
  • Wednesday, June 5: Understand Your Property Tax Bill: 6:30 PM until 8:30 PM, McHenry County Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Upstairs Conference Rooms A & B, Woodstock 
  • Thursday, June 28: Senior Fair: 10:00 AM until 12:00 Noon, Johnsburg High School, 2002 W. Ringwood Road, Johnsburg 
  • Saturday, August 18: Joint Document Shredding/Canned Food Drive (for Woodstock Food Pantry): 9:00 AM until 12:00 Noon, 1072 Lake Avenue (Rear lot of the Reick Office), Woodstock 
  • TBA: Women’s Self Awareness/Self Defense Class 
Bicentennial Medallion Art Contest Underway in Illinois
The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office is offering Illinoisans an opportunity to submit artwork for consideration to be emblazoned on a special 2018 Illinois Bicentennial medallion. The contest timeline to submit a design is now through May 1, 2018. All designs must be submitted via the official online form located here. Submissions will be judged initially by the treasurer's office based on content uniqueness, creativity, quality, accuracy, and completion. Contestants must be Illinois residents and may only submit one design. The top five designs will be made available for the public to vote on between June 1, 2018 and June 15, 2018 on the treasurer's office website. A final winner will be announced on June 18, 2018. The contest winner will be announced via press release and on social media, and the contest winner will be notified prior to the official announcement. Please read all contest terms and conditions. Questions should be directed to Maria Oldani via e-mail (moldani@illinoistreasurer.gov) or phone (217-782-9598). 

Illinois Commemorative Stamp Released
The U.S. commemorative postage stamp had its “First Day of Issue” on Monday, March 5. Sold for 50 cents, the stamp shares the white, yellow, blue, and green colors of the Illinois state flag and the words “Illinois 1818.” It features an outline map of Illinois with the sun rising from the State’s southern tip. Twenty stars in the stamp’s corners reflect the U.S. states that entered the union before 1818, with the rising sun of Illinois being the twenty-first star of the National Union. 

Emergency Rooms Log 66% Increase in Illinois Opioid-Related ER Visits in Recent Period
The figures, compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), used July 2016 as a base and September 2017 as an endpoint. The numbers, based on surveys of emergency room (ER) personnel nationwide, were compiled nationwide and broken out by state. During this 14-month period, more than 142,000 patients came or were brought to ERs nationwide for emergency treatment of opiate overdoses.

Overdose drugs include heroin, fentanyl, OxyContin, and other dangerous medications that utilize the painkilling powers of opium. Patients who take opiates are in serious danger of overdosing because of the known tendency of the human neurological system to build up resistance, called “tolerance,” to opiate pain relievers. As time goes by the patient must take more and more opiates to achieve the same outcome. The Illinois General Assembly has taken many steps in recent years to make it more difficult to buy opiate painkillers through prescription pharmacies; however, some patients are responding to these policy changes by increasing their demands for opiates through the illegal drug market. The Controlled Substances Act is the State statute that tries to help law enforcement stamp out illegal opium-based drugs in Illinois.

Recent data shows that nearly 1,950 Illinois residents died from opioid overdoses in Illinois during the period studied by the CDC. Other U.S. states are also seeing sharp increases in opioid incidents and opioid-related deaths.
State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) joined several Illinois legislators and county fair officials at the Illinois Capitol on Thursday to showcase the positive economic benefit county fairs bring to the state and urge the Governor to release $1.4 million in funding that was appropriated as part of the current fiscal year budget.

The Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs (IAAF) highlighted the results of a University of Illinois Extension Department of Community and Economic Development study, which revealed that county fairs bring $170 million annually to the state’s economy and support 1,000 non-fair related jobs.

County fairs are distinguished from other events in state statute because of their agricultural component, and Reick said the agricultural element of county fairs is an important part of agriculture education for the next generation of farmers. “In addition to the economic benefit of county fairs, I must emphasize the educational aspect,” said Reick. “The agricultural component of county fairs is part and parcel of a comprehensive agriculture education in Illinois. With agriculture being our state’s largest industry, it is necessary for us to continue bringing people into the industry. It is incumbent upon us to provide these students with a proper agriculture education.”

Reick went on to discuss the many benefits of the livestock auctions available at county fairs, saying, “I know in McHenry County, those who participate in FFA and 4-H look forward to the livestock auction every summer. These auctions offer our youth the opportunity to sell their agriculture products, and many use the money they make from their animals to help pay for college.”

The U of I economic study results show that of the $170 million spent in the state annually as a result of county fairs, $90 million is being spent within the actual fairgrounds and the other $80 million is spent in ancillary sales in local communities. “What is important about these numbers is that it shows that county fairs are economic engines in our state, especially in rural areas, many of which are economically disadvantaged and have limited employment opportunities,” said Marvin Perzee of the Iroquois County Fair.

“From a socioeconomic as well as agribusiness perspective, I think it is important to point out that county fairs are the backbone of our agricultural communities in the State of Illinois,” added State Senator Jil Tracey (R-Quincy). “The money the State has appropriated to them is an investment in our agricultural economy and needs to be released.”
State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) has been chosen to serve on the Illinois House of Representatives’ Higher Education Committee.

Reick will join eight other Republicans and 12 Democrats on the committee, which is charged with considering policy initiatives that would affect the quality and cost of higher education at Illinois’ 12 public institutions of higher learning. “I’m pleased to be joining several of my colleagues on the higher education committee and look forward to having a voice in public policy as it relates to our colleges and universities,” said Reick.

The committee meets regularly in Springfield during the regular session months between January and the end of May each year. “Education is one of my key areas of interest, so this is an excellent committee assignment,” added Reick. “I already serve on two of the K-12 Education committees and I’m pleased to now extend my service to the higher education committee discussions.”

Illinois’ 12 public universities include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, Eastern Illinois University, Illinois State University, Western Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Northern Illinois University, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago State University and Governors State University.
The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office is offering Illinoisans an opportunity to submit artwork for consideration to be emblazoned on a special 2018 Illinois Bicentennial medallion. The contest timeline to submit a design is now through May 1, 2018. All designs must be submitted via the official online form located here. Submissions will be judged initially by the treasurer's office based on content uniqueness, creativity, quality, accuracy, and completion. Contestants must be Illinois residents and may only submit one design. The top five designs will be made available for the public to vote on between June 1, 2018 and June 15, 2018 on the treasurer's office website. A final winner will be announced on June 18, 2018.

The contest winner will be announced via press release and on social media, and the contest winner will be notified prior to the official announcement. Please read all contest terms and conditions. Questions should be directed to Maria Oldani via e-mail (moldani@illinoistreasurer.gov) or phone (217-782-9598).
Several family members of the late Jim Keefe of Woodstock were in Springfield on Tuesday as the House of Representatives paid its respects to their father and grandfather, who passed away on November 21, 2017.

With the family looking on from the gallery, members of the House approved HR 771, which mourns the death of the long-time Woodstock resident and active community volunteer. “Many communities are known for their festivals and events, and in most cases there is one individual or a few people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to makes these types of events a success and make a community what it is,” said Reick. “In Woodstock, that person was Jim Keefe.”

Keefe was born in Chicago on January 13, 1932 and moved to Woodstock at the age of six. He attended local Catholic schools and played basketball at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa until he was drafted during his sophomore year. He served his country with distinction in the U.S. Army as a military policeman during the Korean War, and then returned to St. Ambrose to finish his college degree.

After marrying Mary Ellen Burmeister just two weeks after finishing college, Jim and Mary Ellen became very active community volunteers in Woodstock while they raised their children Kelly, Erin, Patrick and Quinn. They ultimately had the privilege of spoiling several grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

In addition to being an active member of St. Mary Parish and serving as a Knight of the Roman Catholic Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Jim was also a charter member of the Woodstock Rotary Club, where he recorded over 49 years of perfect attendance. He also served in the Woodstock City Council, on several municipal boards and was a member of the local Jaycees, Lions Club and Elks Club. In 2002 he was awarded the Harold Buschkopf award for community service.

“The Rotary motto is ‘service above self’ and Jim Keefe lived that every day I knew him,” Reick said.

Jim Keefe was well known in McHenry County as a great storyteller and photographer, and for his “History of Woodstock” slide presentations that were shown to groups around the area. Click here to read the honorary resolution and click here to watch Rep. Reick’s floor comments as he introduced the legislation.