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Independent Maps Referendum Thrown out by Illinois Supreme Court
The 4-3 decision, which fell along partisan lines, found that the Independent Maps amendment to govern the way Illinois draws its lines for General Assembly seats should not appear on the November 2016 ballot. The decision, which cannot be appealed to any higher panel, will make it impossible for Illinoisans to speak out on the process used to elect members of the Illinois General Assembly.

Three members of the Supreme Court, speaking out in dissent, strongly criticized the majority decision. Justice Robert Thomas labeled the decision a “nullification” of plain language of the Constitution allowing the voters the right to circulate petitions to amend that article of the State’s fundamental law that governs the organization and operation of the General Assembly. This limited initiative right was inserted in the Constitution of 1970 as a common-sense response to the likely conflicts of interest to be faced by future General Assemblies when looking at questions involving the Legislative Article of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court majority, led by Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride, said that Illinoisans can circulate a petition to change the way that Illinois legislative districts are mapped whenever they want to do so, but the Supreme Court will not advise them in advance of what the language on the petition should say if the amendment is to be drafted properly; and the Supreme Court reserves the right to throw out any language that it likes if it believes that the language has been drafted improperly. Persons who commented on the Supreme Court decision were left puzzled as to what kind of recourse is provided by current case law to voters who are not satisfied with the current system of drawing legislative maps in Illinois.

State Board of Education Listening Tour to Stop at Mundelein High School
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has scheduled a second series of listening tours to meet with members of Illinois communities to ask for input on the state’s draft plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act. Citizens can learn about the plan and provide their input at Mundelein High School, 1350 W. Hawley Street in Mundelein, on Thursday, September 15 from 4:30-6:30 PM. The draft plan will also be posted on line this week at isbe.net/essa. Citizens who cannot attend the hearing are welcome to provide comments by emailing essa@isbe.net.

ACA Rates soar for Obamacare Customers in Illinois
The Illinois Department of Insurance announced this week that Illinois residents and households who buy individual health insurance on the Get Covered Illinois ACA insurance exchange will face major increases next year. Rates for a typical health insurance plan are set to increase by an average of 43%.

The rate increases follow a major shakeout in the Illinois ACA marketplace, with co-op Land of Lincoln Health liquidating its coverage rolls and for-profit giants Aetna and United Healthcare withdrawing from the market. Remaining participants in the Illinois ACA exchange face less competition and will be able to dictate more terms to potential patients and health care providers. Rate increases could be especially high in Downstate Illinois, where much of the effects of this shakeout are concentrated. For example, ACA customers in the Metro-East could see “silver-plan” increases as great as 70%. According to the Department of Insurance, patients in eight Illinois counties are going to find that only one insurance firm will be willing to sell ACA-compliant policies to them.

Governor Rauner signs Firearms Trafficking Bill to help Protect Communities from Gun Violence
Governor Bruce Rauner signed HB 6303 into law this week to strengthen laws against gun trafficking in Illinois. The bill enhances penalties for firearms trafficking and aims to reduce the growing gun violence epidemic. This will help keep our kids and communities safe by allowing our law enforcement agencies to take action on those who are trafficking guns. HB 6303 makes it a felony for a person who has not been issued a FOID card to bring firearms into the state with the intention of selling or delivering them. Furthermore, if the individual trafficking in gun sales has previously been convicted of an unlawful use or delivery of a firearm, gunrunning or firearm trafficking, they will face even stiffer penalties. It is important to note that this bill does not take guns out of the hands of anyone that safely and legally has or carries a firearm. It exempts FOID card holders specifically for that reason. The bill is designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and off our streets.

New Laws, Executive Order Helps 16,000 Kids
The laws and executive order are oriented towards 16,000 children under the legal care and supervision of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). It is the universal goal of youth authorities, when a child needs a guardian, to select an adult relative or friend from the child’s background, but this is not always possible. In some cases, a court assigns guardianship over a young person or pre-adult to the State of Illinois. Young people in this category were traditionally called “wards of the state,” and one of the effects of this policy change will be to request that people in this standing now be called “youth in care.” Gov. Rauner signed the executive order on Friday, August 19.

The Youth-in-Care executive order was signed in conjunction with the Governor’s signing of a package of bills dealing with adoption and child welfare issues. For example, HB 5665, sponsored by Rep. Christine Winger, was signed as part of this package. Aimed at normalizing the lives of young people in foster-care settings, HB 5665 gives caregivers the right to grant or not grant permission to a child to participate in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities. Examples of group activities for which parental or quasi-parental permission is necessary include sleepovers, church camps, and scouting camps. Prior to the passage of HB 5665, the caregivers had to get a signoff from DCFS personnel in order to be able to grant quasi-parental permissions of this type. HB 5665 was signed into law as P.A. 99-839.

Enrollment for Winter Heating Assistance Program Opens on September 1
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will begin accepting applications for winter heating assistance on Thursday, September 1. The program makes heating bill payments on behalf of households.

September applications to the program are welcome from seniors and persons with disabilities who meet the income guidelines included in the program. Persons with income challenges who are eligible for LIHEAP through other pathways, such as households with young children and households that have had their utility services disconnected, will be asked to wait until a second series of application opportunities opens staring October 1.

The LIHEAP program is operated by the Office of Energy Assistance within the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Illinois residents who need guidance on whether they are eligible for the program, or who wish to apply for admission to the program, should contact the Office of Energy Assistance. In many cases, applicants will be asked to make a contribution toward the total energy bill under the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) program within LIHEAP.

Walgreens Sets up Safe-Disposal Bins
Both law enforcement and environmentalists have expressed concerns about the safe disposal of prescription pharmaceuticals. These chemicals are, in some cases, controlled substances that are prescribed only to patients that have conditions that warrant taking them. In other cases, prescription pharmaceuticals are being disposed of in ways that can pollute the environment and cause human hazards. In a few cases, some over-the-counter pharmaceuticals may fall into this second category.

In some cases, people do not know what to do with old and unused pharmaceuticals. The most common example of this situation involves drugs that have expired and should no longer be safely taken for the purpose for which they were prescribed. Other examples include the contents of a medicine cabinet of a person who has died or moved to a care facility. Too often, drugs like these are thrown into the standard waste stream; in a few cases, they may be resold on the street.

Walgreens has taken steps to install more than 500 “Safe Medication Disposal” kiosk bins in drugstores across the U.S., including 45 bins in Illinois. The kiosk bins will offer friends and family members of persons who no longer need their drugs a safe place to dispose of the special waste. The automated bins will create an opportunity for the secure removal of dangerous drugs, such as opiate painkillers, from a household that no longer needs them. Both prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter) medications may be disposed of in the bins.

Two Bills Signed into Law to Fight Against Human Trafficking
Gov. Rauner signed both bills into law on Sunday, August 21. HB 2822 creates the Human Trafficking Task Force to look into and discuss recommendations for reducing Illinois incidents of human trafficking. The Task Force has been asked to report its findings no later than June 30, 2017.

SB 3007 will speed up the process of granting victim status to persons who have undergone human trafficking, reducing barriers to the provision of medical benefits for these individuals.

Human trafficking refers to the involuntary importation of persons into the United States and into Illinois for purposes of exploitation, typically sexual exploitation or labor exploitation. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), a private-sector reporting center, counted 122 human-trafficking cases in Illinois in 2015. In the first half of 2016, 94 additional cases were reported by or through NHTRC, marking an intensification of patterns of human-trafficking activity in Illinois through June of this year. The Resource Center operates a 24/7 toll-free hotline, at 1-888-373-7888, to report allegations of human trafficking.
As children return to school and families settle into their fall routines, please be aware of some construction work that will slow things up starting today in Mundelein. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has announced that daily lane and shoulder closures will take place on Lake Street (U.S. 45) from Illinois Route 176 to Woodlawn Drive for a street resurfacing project. The scope of the project consists of resurfacing the roadway and making Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements to sidewalks and crossings. The overall project is expected to be completed this fall.

Motorists should expect delays and should allow some extra time through this part of Mundelein. Everyone should also pay attention to flaggers and signs in the work zones, and to obey posted speed limits to avoid costly fines.

Click here to find details on other construction projects in IDOT's District 1. Updates on the impacts to traffic are available at www.travelmidwest.com.

New Private Foundation will Cooperate with State of Illinois to Preserve Threatened Fairgrounds
A private foundation has been created to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure that supports Illinois’ largest summer gathering, the Illinois State Fair. With an estimated $180 million in deferred maintenance costs, the more than 190 buildings of the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair in Southern Illinois’ DuQuoin will require massive rebuilding to maintain a safe and secure fairgoing experience. Electrical, paint, plumbing, roofing, and structural repairs must be done on buildings that were built as long ago as 1892.

Governor Bruce Rauner led the push to create the new Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation. Established by private-sector leaders of the agricultural community, the foundation will raise private funding and coordinate the revitalization and improvement of both fairgrounds. It is expected that large donors may receive recognition for their generosity in the form of sponsorship opportunities that will be seen by the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the Fairs and their grounds. Creation of the Foundation was the culmination of a push to save the State Fairgrounds led by Rep. Tim Butler and by former Rep. Raymond Poe, both of Springfield. Former Rep. Poe is currently the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the State agency with overall responsibility over the State fairgrounds and state fair infrastructure.

Tourists Spent $37 Billion in Illinois in 2015
The new numbers come from the Illinois Office of Tourism, which monitors visitor spending in Illinois as a way of gauging a return on investments for the money from hotel/motel taxes spent to promote Illinois to out-of-staters. Estimated expenditures by tourists in Illinois were $37 billion in 2015, up an inflation-beating 2.6% from 2014.

According to the Office of Tourism, an arm of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, tourism generated an estimated 10,000 new Illinois jobs in 2015. Job creation is featured in the Office of Tourism’s “Illinois Made” campaign for 2016, a multimedia promotion that centers on the attractive opportunities for visitors to buy goods and services produced by Illinois craftspeople and small businesses.

Governor Signs Bills Honoring Gold Star Families, Increasing Services to Illinois Veterans
Governor Bruce Rauner recently took action on several bills as part of Veterans Day at the 2016 Illinois State Fair. The bills strengthen Illinois’ commitment to our veterans and their families by providing needed assistance and honor to those who have sacrificed so much for our country and our state.

Two of the bills support the families of our Illinois veterans. HB 4389, sponsored by Rep. Steven Andersson, designates the day after Gold Star Mother’s Day as Gold Star Family Day to be observed throughout Illinois as a day to honor and commemorate the families of men and women who gave their lives while serving with the armed forces of the United States.

HB 4432, sponsored by Rep. Don Moffitt, allows a child in any grades 6 through 12 to be absent from a public school for the purpose of sounding “Taps” at a military honor funeral held in Illinois for a deceased veteran. Read more about HB 4389 and HB 4432.

HB 4627, sponsored by Rep. Mike Tryon, allows veterans to begin their college education upon discharge regardless of how the calendar year lines up. Read more about HB 4627.

HB 4344, sponsored by Rep. Mark Batinick, creates the Heroes Way Designation Program Act. It is a way to honor servicemembers who were killed in action by allowing a relative to apply to have an honorary sign with the name of the servicemember erected along designated Illinois roads.

New Illinois Law Extends Tax Assessment Formula for Wind Turbines
Illinois wind turbines are now a familiar sight throughout many parts of Downstate Illinois. The state’s attractiveness as a potential location for wind farm investments was enhanced by a law passed in 2007 that creates a formula for local property tax assessors to use in assessing wind turbine arrays. At the beginning of this year, the assessment law applied to assessment years through 2016, creating potential uncertainty for new Illinois wind farm investment in 2017 and following years.

Rep. Tom Demmer took action this spring to protect Illinois’ status as a place for long-term wind infrastructure investment. SB 2612 extends the life of the current wind power assessment formula and methodology for another five years, through assessment year 2021. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday, August 16.

Current Rate of Traffic Deaths show Fatalities Mounting to Projected Eight-Year High in 2016
Based on current statistical trends, more than 1,000 people will be killed on Illinois roads and highways in 2016. The dismal number is attributed by traffic experts to higher speeds, with speed limits up to 70 mph on many sections of Illinois limited-access highways. An increase in the total number of Illinois miles driven and a larger number of younger drivers are also blamed.

The 1,000-death projection is based upon the 629 Illinois traffic deaths that had been logged as of Friday, August 12 by the National Safety Council, a private-sector entity that works with local law enforcement and health providers to track accidents and injuries nationwide, including motor vehicle incidents. The Council has, in the past, played a key role in injury-reducing changes to motor vehicle law, including mandatory child restraints and a standardized law to identify and sanction persons who drive under the influence.
Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that his office has reinstated the mailing of vehicle registration reminder notices to Illinois drivers. To offset the cost of the mailings, White is drafting legislation allowing his office to offer advertising space on the mailings. In addition, White is urging the public to sign-up for email notices to further reduce mailing costs.

The Secretary of State’s office discontinued mailing reminders in October 2015 due to the lack of funding as a direct result of the state budget impasse. The stop-gap budget recently passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor allows White’s office to reinstate the notices.

“The notices are an essential tool for the public to be sure their vehicles are in good standing and avoid paying late fees and fines resulting from tickets issued by law enforcement,” White said. “The driving public paid the price for the budget impasse and it proved to be an unfair burden. With the funds from the stop-gap budget the notices will resume. In addition, we are reducing the number of mailings and seeking alternative funding sources for the postage costs.”

“Although we are now able to reinstate mailing the vehicle registration reminder notices, I continue to strongly urge motorists to sign up for email reminders,” said White. “Saving taxpayer dollars is always a priority of our administration.”

White noted that more than 2.3 million people have registered for the email notification, 800,000 of which signed up since October 2015.

Vehicle owners can sign up for email notifications by visiting the Secretary of State website, www.cyberdriveillinois.com. To register for the program, vehicle owners will need their assigned registration ID and PIN, which can be found on their current vehicle registration card. If that information is not available, they can call the Secretary of State public inquiry division at 800-252-8980 to obtain the Registration ID and PIN.

The one-time registration process will allow vehicle owners to receive a series of three email notices per vehicle each year highlighting the upcoming vehicle expiration date.
The line of cars on July 30 was constant at State Representative Ed Sullivan’s (R-Mundelein) document shredding event at the Fremont Township Building. Done in cooperation with AT&T, the event provided residents of the 51st Legislative House District with a quick and safe method for disposing of old, sensitive documents.

“We had a great turnout,” said Sullivan, who greeted motorists and helped unload their boxes of documents to be shredded. “I heard from many people that they had been holding on to their old bank and credit card statements because they had nowhere to safely dispose of them.”

A total of 155 cars flowed through the two-hour event, and close to 15,000 pounds of paper documents were collected and shredded. “Everyone has old bank statements, receipts and other sensitive documents that they don’t want to simply toss in the trash, so I was pleased to partner with AT&T for this valuable community service,” Sullivan said.
State Representative Ed Sullivan (R-Mundelein) invites residents of the 51st Legislative House District to take advantage of a free document shredding event that will take place on Saturday, July 30.

The event will be held at the Fremont Township building, 22385 W. IL Route 60 in Mundelein, from 9:00-11:00 AM or until the shredding truck is full. Citizens simply need to drive up in the parking lot and watch as event volunteers unload up to two boxes or bags of shreddable documents. Items to be shredded will be limited to paper only. A parking area will be available for those who wish to watch as their documents are fed into the shredding truck.

“People often hold onto their old, sensitive documents because they have nowhere to safely dispose of them,” said Sullivan. “I’m glad to offer this free service to the citizens from District 51. Residents don’t even have to leave their cars. Our volunteers will lift the boxes and feed them into the shredding truck while drivers watch their documents go through the shredder.”

Volunteers will also be on site to direct traffic. Those wishing to shred documents will be asked to enter the lot from W Erhart Road and to exit onto Route 60. For more information about this event, please contact Representative Sullivan’s office at (847) 566-5115.
High School Students to Stop Taking PARCC Tests
The State Board of Education announced on Monday, July 11 that beginning in the spring of 2017, high school students would no longer have to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. Instead, the State will subsidize and supervise the administration of a statewide SAT college entrance exam in spring 2017. Students in 11th grade will take the SAT. The SAT is administered according to an established nationwide protocol and its results are published in numbers that are relatively accessible and familiar to students and educators. SAT tests will be administered in compliance with the State law evaluating high school student body performance and progress. Students in grades 3 through 8 will continue to take separate PARCC tests geared to their age groups. 

Assessment Notices are Being Mailed; Know Where to Get Answers
Property assessment notices for Lake County have begun to be sent out and will continue through August. The notices include important information including a summary of the current year’s valuation changes, property characteristics, homestead exemptions received on the previous tax bill, and more. If you have questions or concerns regarding the assessed value of your property, discuss this with your local township assessor’s office. You can also receive one-on-one assistance at a tax assessment help center or the Chief County Assessment Office to understand your assessment and/or file an appeal.

If you plan on filing an appeal, a quick and convenient Online Appeal Filing System allows you to get your appeal information to the Board of Review without the hassle of mailing or hand delivering them to the Chief County Assessment Office in Waukegan. Click here to learn more about the process to file an appeal including reasons to appeal and the hearing process.

State of Illinois Completes Rollout of New Job Opportunity for Unemployed Illinoisans
Illinois JobLink is a resume-posting platform operated by the Department of Employment Security (IDES) that is open to persons seeking employment in Illinois. Under a new policy going into effect on Sunday, July 17, persons filing for Illinois unemployment benefits after being laid off are going to be asked to fill out and post their resumes on Illinois JobLink as a condition of completing their application for benefits.

The Department is aware that people who need to file for benefits may have questions about how to complete the JobLink process and resume. The JobLink home page can be found here. In past years, nearly 60% of Illinois unemployment benefit filings did not include a work history or resume, despite the importance of these documents to potential employers. IDES believes that linking JobLink resume filing with unemployment benefits will speed up the hiring of unemployed persons.

Mosquitoes Test Positive for West Nile Virus in Lake County
A mosquito pool sample in June in Highland Park tested positive for West Nile virus, the first confirmed indicator of the disease’s presence in Lake County this year. In 2015, five human cases of West Nile virus were reported in Lake County. You can help prevent West Nile virus by reporting areas of stagnant water, which are conducive to mosquito breeding by calling the Lake County Health Department’s West Nile virus hotline at 847-377-8300. For a list of signs and symptoms, click here


New I-Refi Program from IHDA Will Help Some Under-Water Homeowners
The program, from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), is aimed at homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the home is worth. Eligible homeowners, starting August 1, will be invited to apply for admission to the “Hardest Hit” program. Residents and families helped by the program could see a reduction in the amount owed on their mortgages. A mortgage financing data tracker, CoreLogic, reports that approximately 14% of all Illinois home mortgages are currently underwater.

The Illinois program is being backed by $45.7 million in U.S. Treasury funding. It is projected that 1,800 homeowner applicants will successfully apply for admission to the program and will get debt-reduction assistance of approximately $25,000 per home. Applicants to the program, which is targeted towards modest and middle-class homes in challenged geographic areas, will be granted a maximum of $50,000 in debt-reduction assistance. The assistance will be credited towards the debt owed on a new, private-sector 30-year mortgage. Twenty-five participating mortgage-finance lenders have been mobilized by IHDA. These firms will refinance the homes of participating homeowners at market rates.

To qualify, applicants must owe at least 10% more than the value of their home, up to $50,000. Despite being under water, they must be current on mortgage payments for at least the past 12 months and must live in the home. Household income eligibility is determined by a sliding scale keyed towards the number of persons in the household and the geographic location of the household. The maximum purchase price of the home is also one of the variables used to gauge overall potential eligibility for admission to the program.

State’s Affirmative Markets Initiative Strengthened through Executive Order
The Executive Order, signed on Wednesday, July 13, affects small businesses owned and controlled by minorities, women, and persons with disabilities. EO 16-08 directs the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to reform and reorganize its existing Business Enterprise Program. This reorganization is meant to streamline Illinois affirmative markets policies. Among many other changes, EO 16-08 asks CMS to create a standardized procedure to potentially set aside certain procurement contracts for solicitation to firms with enumerated standing. The “Sheltered Markets” set-aside program is supported by a wide variety of business groups. CMS has been asked to monitor its compliance with the Sheltered Markets Initiative and other changes implemented by this Executive Order, and to report annually to the Governor’s office on July 1 of each year, starting on July 1, 2017.
The stopgap State budget, enacted and signed into law on Thursday, June 30 in Springfield provides a full 12 months of funding for Illinois K-12 public schools. This plan will fully fund the foundation level for the first time in many years, ending the unfair practice of proration and will ensure that all school districts get at least as much funding from the State as they received last year. Every school district within the boundaries of District 51 will see an increase in funding.

The school aid includes both general State aid (GSA) and a series of categorical grants provided to many school districts to cover parts of the costs of mandates imposed by the State and other costs of school district operation. In addition, the FY17 K-12 education bill appropriated $361 million over what was distributed last year in FY16 for the 2015-16 school year. It also allocates $250 million for a new statewide equity grant that will be distributed to school districts based on the State Board of Education’s low income grant formula. The plan also includes a $75 million increase for early childhood education. It does not include a state bailout of Chicago Public Schools.

This chart illustrates the estimated increase in funding that District 51 schools will receive for 2016-2017: