Well the school year is back in full swing in northwest Illinois and our state legislature has made some moves in recent days in regards to education. In a column back in July, I mentioned SB2747 (School Safety Task Force) and HB3700 (improvement to education of persons with dyslexia) both of which are solid steps to a better and safer education system. Other steps forward include HB5716, recently signed into law, which requires schools to update their emergency and crisis response plans; HB3724 which requires schools to include CPR and AED training in health classes for students who opt in; and HB5286 which allows school service personnel to qualify for principal preparation until 2019.
Here’s the catch, though: state and local government can advance (or in some cases, retrogress) in education all they want, but if we the people don’t prioritize education, not much will change, and it may in fact get worse.
This spring, the Illinois General Assembly passed a total appropriation for elementary and secondary education of $6.805 billion for FY2015 which reflects an increase of $117.8 million over the previous year. Good step, right? But is it enough? $6.805 billion seems like a lot, but when you compare it to the state’s 2014 welfare budget—$7.9 billion—and the state’s 2014 Medicaid budget—close to $17 billion—you have to wonder where our state’s priorities lie. Perhaps if we invested more in education than in welfare, our local employers wouldn’t struggle to recruit an educated workforce as much as they currently do.Read more
Please bring the whole family out to the Children's Fair I am hosting on September 13 at Freeport Middle School!
Welcome back, Walgreens. If you haven’t heard, they made the choice to stay in the U.S. and, likely, to remain headquartered in Illinois. I’m proud of them. The decision couldn’t have been easy. After they announced their choice, their share price dropped dramatically and has yet to climb back up. They chose to stick with a country and a state that gave them the freedom to succeed. They chose to stick with a state currently in the throes of economic difficulty but whose horizons were once as big as the cornfields that surround the cities and towns of the 89th District. They chose to stick with us. How are we going to show that we are choosing to stick with them? And how are we going to stick with the dozen or so other corporations that USA Today says are considering leaving the country? And how are we going to stick with the myriads of Illinois businesses that are considering leaving the state for a state with a lower corporate tax burden? And how are we going to stick with the scores of small Illinois businesses that are being forced to shut their doors?Read more
One hundred and thirteen years ago, a boy from nearby Dixon opened a tiny drugstore in Chicago. That drugstore grew from one tiny store in 1901 to four stores by 1913, to twenty stores by 1919, to thousands of stores today. That boy from Dixon, Charles Walgreen went from a small town kid to an Illinois success story.
When I think of Charles, I think of the other Illinois success stories throughout our state’s history: the Kraft family in Stockton who began a cheese factory in 1914 that became part of a world-wide conglomeration; the Chesney family in Freeport who started a vending machine manufacturing company over twenty-five years ago that now operates both in Freeport and across the globe; and even our small town businesses like the Goldmoor Inn in Galena, one of the state’s premier luxury inns, or the Freeport Winter family’s construction business and recently opened brewery; the farmers from our district who feed America, the small town insurance companies, banks, restaurants, and specialty shops.Read more
It’s been a busy few weeks here in Northwestern Illinois and consequently it’s been a while since my last column. I love attending all the summer activities our district has to offer. Here are a few of the things that have been keeping me busy: the weekend of June 20-21, the Union Dairy in Freeport and Kraft Foods in Stockton both celebrated 100 years of business. Both organizations are certainly notable to their communities, and Stockton’s Kraft was the first cheese plant of many that currently make up the now world-wide conglomerate. I mean come on, who has not eaten Velveeta, Philadelphia cream cheese, Miracle Whip or Kraft macaroni and cheese? And for Union Dairy, who could not pass up Zanzibar Chocolate ice cream? Not me, not in a heartbeat. That same weekend, thanks to Bruce Johnson and the Farm Bureau and many other volunteers, the Dairy Days Parade came back to Freeport, and it even had an entertaining flash mob. Given the strong agricultural and dairy industry in the 89th District I strongly recommend and support celebrating Dairy Days every year.Read more
Now that session has adjourned until the fall, I will be out in the district traveling to events and meeting with constituents. I invite anyone in the district to contact my office to discuss an issue or to schedule a time to have me attend an event you may have. It’s important to know my door is always open and I am here to serve you in any way I can.
This week Governor Quinn signed a bill into law that changes how poker runs are regulated in the State of Illinois. Currently, under the old law, charitable games licenses are granted by the Department of Revenue (IDOR). The organizer-applicant must pay a nonrefundable fee of $400, and each premise-applicant must pay a separate nonrefundable fee of $50.Read more
It’s officially summer in Springfield. The Illinois legislature adjourned from spring session this past Friday until fall veto session begins in November. The question on everyone’s mind is what did we accomplish while we were in Springfield this year? We voted on three different budgets, passed some controversial ballot measures, enacted a new capital construction bill, and expanded Medicaid. While there were some key measures passed, we still came up short of taking the tough votes that would reign-in spending and correct the economic uncertainty that has caused Illinois residents to migrate elsewhere.Read more
The last week of spring session is fast approaching and we have yet to finalize the FY15 budget, among other important pieces of legislation. My colleagues and I will be Springfield until we are set to adjourn on May 31st. I believe it’s important the constituents of the 89th district be mindful of what we are currently working on so that you may contact my office with support or opposition to the current proposals offered by the legislature.Read more
This week the Illinois House voted on a budget for FY15. If anyone remembers, back in March, under House Joint Resolution 80, we voted on a revenue estimate of $34.495 billion. The bill passed unanimously and set the limit for spending to begin negotiations for the appropriation working groups.Read more
Last week I respectfully wrote a letter to Governor Quinn regarding the safety of the Illinois State Police and their squad cars. The letter was initiated in response to recent calls I had received about the issue. The letter is as follows:Read more