Skillicorn Targeting Pritzker Tax on $1,000 Electric Vehicle Tax

From State Rep. Allen Skillicorn:

Skillicorn to Hold Vehicle Tax Press Conference

SPRINGFIELD – State Representative Allen Skillicorn (R-Crystal Lake) has invited officials from Rivian Automotive LLC to join him for a press conference in the Blueroom at the Illinois State Capitol.

The press conference will be held on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. to address the proposals coming out Springfield to drastically increase the taxes and fees on vehicles in Illinois.

“Illinois managed to bring in $1.5 billion more in tax revenue and the increased revenue is expected to continue in the next fiscal year thanks to the economic boost of Pres. Trump’s tax cuts, but we are still not even growing at the same rate as the rest of country,” said Skillicorn.

“The windfall benefits of the national economy won’t continue forever and Moody’s just reported we cannot withstand a recession.

“Despite these facts, Gov. Pritzker and Springfield Democrats have proposed a mountain of new taxes and fees on essential transportation needs that will surely drive more people and investment out of the state instead of helping us catch up with the rest of the country.

“Rivian is a perfect example of a company that wants to invest in Illinois, but their plans for a $400 million invest in Normal could be severely damaged if these oppressive fees from Springfield are implemented.”

Rivian, an electric car manufacturer, purchased the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal in 2017 and began a $400 million investment plan that will ultimately create 1,000 jobs.

One of the driving factors for their expansion in Illinois was the favorable climate toward electric vehicles and the prospects of major EV growth in the state.

However, proposals that would drastically increase the fees on electric vehicles and other transportation tax and fee increases could dramatically dampen their investment and job creation plans.

Wilcox Bill for Cold War License Plates Passes

From State Senator Craig Wilcox:

Senate Passes Wilcox Cold War Veteran License Plate

Springfield, IL. – U.S. military veterans who served during the Cold War would be able to purchase special recognition license plates marking their service during the nearly 50-year U.S./Soviet Union “Cold War” conflict under legislation approved by the Senate May 21.

“Many veterans of this era may not have been directly involved in a hostile action like the Korean conflict or Vietnam, but they served admirably and trained to be ready at a moment’s notice to go to war,” said Wilcox (R-McHenry).

“The Cold War was a battle of ideologies; different ways of treating citizens and different views on freedom and government structure, but it sparked heated geopolitical tensions between the United States with our Western allies and the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc satellite nations.”

House Bill 2088, which passed the Senate by a vote of 54 to 0, authorizes the Illinois Secretary of State to issue Cold War license plates to Illinois residents that served in the U.S. Armed Forces between August 15, 1945 and January 1, 1992. The plates have no additional fee attached.

“We had many service members overseas who were in an everyday training regimen in preparation for imminent danger and the possible call to fight and protect,” said Wilcox, a U.S. Air Force veteran.

For Sen. Wilcox, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel, the license plates are a small symbol of Illinois’ gratitude and also an acknowledgement of that significant service of Cold War veterans that has largely gone unrecognized.

“I came into the Air Force in the late 80’s and during that time those who were training me through Jr. ROTC and ROTC were members of that Cold War era,” said Wilcox. “They were also part of my experience and provided mentorship during my younger days as a lieutenant and captain. Their service during the Cold War is just as important as those who went into combat or serve today outside of combat.”

Colonel Craig Wilcox spent 24 years (1989-2013) in the United States Air Force. His last post was as Commander of the 89th Airlift Support Group at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. There, he led his unit providing global command and control communications and aerial port services to the President of the United States and Air Force One.

Visit Sen. Wilcox’s legislative website (www.senatorwilcox.com) for an extensive list of veterans’ resources to connect to employment, education, service records and local, state and federal assistance.

HB2088 was introduced in the House by Rep. Daniel Swanson. The House passed the legislation March 20 by a vote of 114 to 0. The measure now heads to the Governor for consideration.

McHenry County Left Out of Pritzker Tourism Money

From the JB Pritzker Administration:

The Illinois Office of Tourism Announces Tourism Grant Recipients

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Office of Tourism, is pleased to announce funding for two grant programs designed to increase tourism across the state.  The grants, which haven’t been awarded since 2015, will help bolster the state’s tourism industry which generated over $3 billion in tax revenue for state and local communities last year.

The Tourism Attraction Grant Program will help develop new or enhance existing tourism attractions to grow visitation and overnight stays in Illinois.  DCEO provided grant funding to 13 organizations in the amount of $1.4 million. There was significant demand for this grant program, receiving four times the number of requests than available funding.

Tourism Private Sector Grant Program will help attract major new events to the state or significantly enhance existing events to increase visitation. DCEO provided grant funding to four applicants in the amount of $402,160.

“Travel and tourism in Illinois is a $40 billion industry and we are glad to support our communities in their efforts to attract new and returning visitors to their attractions,” said Erin Guthrie, Acting Director of the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO).  “We are glad DCEO can support the tourism economy in local communities with these grant programs.”

“Developing new attractions and events is necessary to attract new audiences to visit Illinois. These grants will result in increased visitor spending in local communities, generating revenue and creating jobs for Illinoisans.” said Jan Kemmerling, Acting Deputy Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. 

Below is a list of grant recipients from the two grant programs.

Tourism Private Sector Grant Recipients

DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau: $100,000
United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Women’s Championships 2021 has selected DuPage County Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) and Stardust Bowl of Addison to host this annual event.  Per the agreement, USBC requires a bid fee of $200,000.  In partnership with the County of DuPage and several key municipal partners, the DCVB has raised $100,000.

Chicagoland Speedway: $200,000
The Ultimate Summer NASCAR Festival Weekend (June 27-30), has been enhanced to include a new carnival, pit bike motocross national, headline musical entertainment and professionally judged barbeque competition to increase attendance for race weekend and sell more multi-day tickets.

The Farnsworth House: $10,360
The Farnsworth House will use the grant to develop and support new programming enabling its participation in the Bauhaus100 Centennial – an international celebration of the ongoing legacy of the influential German design and architecture school.  Programming will include new exhibitions and related public events, appealing to a wide audience, attracting more visitors and increasing tourist traffic in the Yorkville region.

Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau: $91,800
CRE8IV: transformational ART, is a new mural festival, May 15-19, at various locations in downtown Rockford. CRE8IV (pronounced “Creative”) is a community-building, arts-infused event. Over the course of the festival, eight lead artists will work with teams of artists to create eight large-scale murals in Rockford’s central city. Each day the festival includes a free-to-attend Block pARTy at one of the mural locations.

Tourism Attraction Grant Recipients

Fountain of the Rigthious from the Illinois Holocaust Museum web site.

Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois: $200,000
A new groundbreaking Virtual Reality Experience- Tours of Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Ebensee Concentration Camps with Holocaust Survivors – will open as a long-term exhibition in early 2020, offering an extraordinary tourism attraction.  The Experience will feature two virtual reality films, each approximately 10-minutes long, providing personalized tours of the notorious Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Ebensee Concentration Camps led by Holocaust Survivors Fritzie Fritzshall and George Brent.  As Holocaust Survivors dwindle, these films will vividly preserve and enable sharing of Survivors experiences for generations.

Chicago Zoological Society: $130,984.84
Four of the most heavily trafficked areas throughout Brookfield Zoo will receive WiFi coverage with the zoo’s new WiFi expansion set to increase outdoor coverage by 90 percent to better accommodate visitors.

Chicagoland Speedway/Route 66 Raceway: $122,500
After 20 years of operation and wear, it is essential that the Suite Tower and Roof Top at the Route 66 Raceway be renovated to continue driving existing fans as well as new fans to experience racing in a unique and authentic way. The Club 66, general suites, and Roof Top experiences will encourage event promoters to bring existing and new events to Will County and will entice fans to stay longer (more days) to increase overnight stays in the area.

Laurent House Foundation: $250,000 ($125,000 FY19 & $125,000 FY20) 
Laurent House is the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed home for a disabled client. Due to the nature of the historic home museum, it cannot serve as a Visitor Center, which limits the museums ability to expand and grow.  This grant will allow the Foundation to purchase the adjacent residential home and surrounding 1.3 acres to build a Visitors Center and offer bus and visitor parking. The additional space will also accommodate offices, a tour staging area, gift shop, archival storage, library, accessible bathrooms and meeting area.

From the Bald Knob Cross of Peace Facebook page.

Bald Knob Cross of Peace, Inc.: $53,071.50
Bald Knob Cross of Peace will construct a covered stage for annual and seasonal events; expand and resurface its parking area, add handicap accessible walking paths and purchase a handicap accessible free-standing telescope (binoculars).  Bald Knob Cross stands 111 feet tall, overlooking the Shawnee National Forest and three states, Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri.

City of Joliet: $250,000 ($125,000 FY’19 & $125,000 FY’20)
The City of Joliet will apply its grant award to improving the Old Joliet Prison Historic Site. Plans include converting a former guard house facility into a visitor’s center, adding interpretive signage both inside and outside the prison, and new exterior lighting to highlight the architecture. The Old Joliet Prison attracts visitors from around the world.

Preservation of Egyptian Theatre, Inc.: $200,000
A two-story building addition with restroom and concession improvements will enhance the visitor experience at the historic Egyptian Theater in DeKalb.  Most importantly, installation of air conditioning will allow the theatre to remain open year-round with programming, and for the first time have a substantial positive economic and cultural impact on the community (prior to this HVAC improvement, the theatre closed during the summer months).

Canal Corridor Association: $134,474
The historic I & M Canal Visitor Center will enhance the visitor experience along the I & M Canal State Trail through a system of bike rentals.  These modest improvements will enhance the visitor experience substantially while visiting the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Area (IMCNHA). The improvements are based upon visitor requests along the I & M Canal Trails.

City of Aurora: $43,131
The City of Aurora is making RiverEdge Park concert/festival site more accessible to those with special needs including ADA-certified accessible golf cars to transport people with disabilities from the parking area to the venue. The park hosts concerts, festivals, July 4th celebrations, and marathons along the river. Approximately 900 people require ADA assistance while attending summer events at RiverEdge Park.

Timber Lake Playhouse: $95,755.58
Timber Lake Playhouse will winterize its theatre to extend its theatre production season from May into December.  This project will increase visitation and tourism expenditures by adding additional production weeks.

Champaign Park District/Virginia Theatre: $50,000
The addition of modern “intelligent” theatrical lighting will allow the Virginia Theatre to host a greater number and variety of touring events attracting more patrons from across the state. 

Western Illinois Tourism Council: $13,285
Refurbishing seven kiosks along the Great River Road in Illinois and creating 22 replacement interpretive panels for Great River Road in Illinois kiosks. The Great River Road is one of Illinois’ seven Scenic Byways and a National Scenic Byway.  The route connects visitors directly with a multitude of attractions as it navigates over 550 miles along Illinois’ western border. These improvements will provide visitors with welcoming and informational signage along the byway.

Abbey Ridge Brewery & Tap Room: $106,798
The Abbey Ridge Brewery & Tap Room will be rebuilt after a fire completely destroyed the structure in 2017.  Located along the Shawnee Hills Wine and Beer Trail, Abbey Ridge was the first microbrewery in a three-county region offering craft beer, wine and cocktails paired with unique food, entertainment and event options. Once rebuilt, Abbey Ridge will continue with beer making tours, and host events including weddings and themed dinners consistent with its old medieval décor. The new facility will be structured with an 11th century European facade similar to the French Monastery Abbey de Senanque where beer was brewed by monks. 

McSweeney Sick Day Transparency Bill Passes Senate

From State Rep. David McSweeney:

IL Senate Approves Rep. McSweeny’s Measure Requiring Public Disclosure of Unused Sick Days

Springfield, IL – The Illinois Senate has given bipartisan approval to a measure State Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) sponsored to
add sick days to the requirements of publicly disclosed payouts for certain Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) employees.

Under current Illinois law, some employees of local governments can use their accumulated sick leave to boost their pension payments based upon their total compensation in their final period of employment.

Pension payouts are based on the last few years of employment.

Some public employees can save their unused sick days and apply them as a
pension enhancement, which can result in a significant boost to the total benefit paid to retirees during their lifespan.

In a boost for government transparency, House Bill 303 adds unused
sick time to disclosable payments for non-union public IMRG employees.

HB 303 will require any accumulated sick time to be discussed in a
public meeting.

The amount of the benefit, retirement date, and the eventual liability for the government of the boost would need to be disclosed to the public.

“This is a common-sense reform that will help local governments have a
better understanding of their potential pension obligations and to plan accordingly,” McSweeney said.

“It had bipartisan support and I certainly appreciate the work Sen. Tom Cullerton did to get the bill through the Illinois Senate.”

HB 303 passed the Senate by a vote of 55-0. It had previously passed
the House by a vote of 115-0-0.

The measure now moves to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

86 Wild Turkeys Shot in McHenry County

Illinois 2019 Spring Wild Turkey Preliminary Harvest Totals 15,189 Birds

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois turkey hunters harvested a preliminary statewide total of 15,189 wild turkeys during the 2019 Spring Turkey Season.

This year’s total is up compared with the 2018 statewide turkey harvest of 13,494.

The statewide preliminary total includes the 2019 Youth Turkey Season harvest of 1,364 birds, compared with the 2018 youth harvest of 1,143 turkeys.

The statewide record total was set in 2006 when 16,569 turkeys were harvested.

This turkey finds food in Crystal Lake on a Woodland Drive deck.

86 were taken in McHenry County this year, one less than last year.

Lakewood Suspends $25,000 per Home Sewer and Water Hook-on & Developer Impact Fees

From the Village of Lakewood:

The Village of Lakewood Approves One Year Suspension of Impact and Water/Sewer Tap On Fees for New Single Family Homes

Lakewood, IL — Under the leadership of President Phil Stephan, the Lakewood Village Board approved Ordinance 2019-(17) suspending impact and water/sewer tap on fees for single family residential permits issued after May 14, 2019 and prior to May 14, 2020.

Impact fees are imposed by a local government on new or proposed development to help defray the costs of providing public services to the new development.

They are considered to be a charge on new development to help fund and pay for the construction or needed expansion of offsite capital improvements such as parks, schools, roads, sewer and water treatment utilities to the newly developed areas.

The Village of Lakewood tracks 147 vacant lots; most of which are located in residential subdivisions.

The “bricks and mortar” capital improvements have already been contemplated for these lots and therefore there is minimal impact associated with a one year suspension of fees.

“This is a win-win for the Village as well as local builders who have been asking for relief.

“Builders are paying an average of $25,000 for a new residential building permit, most of which is applied to the Lakewood Utility Capital Fund reserves.

“This economic incentive will help deplete the lot inventory and bring new families to Lakewood.” stated President Stephan.

For more information on how to apply for a no impact fee single family residential building permit, please contact the Village of Lakewood at 815-459-3025 or online at www.village.lakewood.il.us. Please note that inspection fees still apply.

= = = = =

As far as abolishing impact fees for the Crytstal Lake Park Disrict, Lakewood follows in the footsteps of the City of Crystal Lake.

More Pritzker Taxes

Went to Springfield for the Old Capitol Art Show this past weekend and missed the story about the contents of Governor JB Pritzker’s proposed taxes to finance the capital program that is being used to buy votes for his graduated income tax hike plan.

Fortunately, reading the Chicago Tribune’s Kristen McCreary’s column today, she summarized them:

Additional Thoughts on How Turning High and Grade School Districts into Unit School Districts Will Raise Taxes

Former Cary Grade School Board President Scott Coffey shares his knowledge of school law:

As Cal indicated years ago, School Code requires certified employees to be migrated to the higher-paying contract of the consolidating districts, thus guaranteeing much higher labor expenses after a consolidation.

This proposed legislation requires a Unit district to be created from the consolidation process, and given that high school districts generally have higher teacher salaries, most elementary teachers will receive increases to their compensation as they are migrated to a high school contract.

As an example, looking at the variances in the Salary Tables for next year between D-155 vs D-26 shows a D-155 BS-10 value of $70,867 vs D-26 value of $47,044 which indicates a variance of $23,823 (or 50.6% higher).

Given that the overwhelming majority of D-26 teachers are younger and still on the Table, this process would spike compensation by at least by $3.5 million.

The same effect would be seen, to varying degrees, with the other K-8 districts (D-3, D-46, D-47) that would be consolidated under this scenario.

Further exacerbating the finances would be the increase to TRS pension costs due to the inflated salaries, increased benefits’ costs due to D-155’s contract, increased costs as the salaries/benefits structure for all the support personnel are standardized in a consolidated district, and the uncertainty of how a consolidation affects the calculation of State aid under the relatively new Evidence-Based Funding formula.

While there would be administrative savings (i.e. Superintendents, Finance, HR, IT, Special Ed, Curriculum, etc.), those savings would be dwarfed by the incremental salaries/benefits and any additional costs to standardize instruction across the new district (textbooks, computers, etc.).

At this point, I’m not even sure if D-155’s contract language restricting student contact-time with teachers would allow K-8 teachers to teach their class for the whole day.

The easiest way to think about the rules for school consolidation (105 ILCS 5/Art. 11E) is that instead of adopting “Best Practices”, school code forces the adoption of “Worst Practices”.

The School District Efficiency Commission could put a consolidation referendum on the ballot which would require a statement of the maximum proposed tax rate.

A consolidation referendum requires the approval of every community affected by the consolidation.

Why that is important is that elementary districts in the same area can have radically different tax rates and requiring every community’s approval prevents a giant tax increase from getting crammed down on a community that has been more efficient and operates with a lower tax rate today.

This can be seen in the Operating Tax Rates of the four K-8 districts that feed into D-155:

Cary D-26 $3.443 (per $100 of taxable EAV)
C.L. D-47 3.947
Prairie G. D-46 4.559
FRG D-3 5.080

There is a 47.5% spread from lowest to highest.

So, the proposed tax rate in a consolidation referendum would have to incorporate Cary’s low rate, otherwise, Cary residents would never vote to approve a ballot measure that results in a tax increase.

The main beneficiaries would be residents in FRG, Prairie Grove, and Crystal Lake.

Taking them down to Cary’s rate would generate tax savings of $13.8 million for those three communities which is probably incentive enough for them to vote for it, but is neutral for Cary voters.

That also means that the new Unit district would have $13.8 million less in operating revenues while simultaneously absorbing millions in net incremental expenses as outlined above.

This new School District Efficiency Commission will only work if the districts affected have similar tax rates and similar labor contracts.

Democratic Party Opponent for Steve Reick Surfaces

Here’s a Facebook page that identifies a Democratic Party opponent for Republican State Rep. Stecve Reick:

Facebook page for Demcoratic Party candidate for State Representative agint incumbnt Republican Steve Reick

One can find his web site here.

Pete’s Mission

His web site lays out his mission:

I am often asked, “What do the Democrats stand for?”

Well, jobs and infrastructure are certainly top priorities. These are my top 10 priorities afterward. Although there are so many more important goals to reach, I chose these simply because I think these will benefit the largest number of people first.

  1. Enhanced Medicare for All – HR676 and S.1804: The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not provide basic health care for all. Countries around the world spend less to provide more health care to their citizens; the United States has the most expensive health care in the world, but not the best outcomes.
  2. Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act – S.469 and H.R.1245: To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to allow for the importation of affordable and safe drugs by wholesale distributors, pharmacies, and individuals.
  3. Fight for 15 and the Raise the Wage Act – S.1242 and H.R.15: This bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to increase the federal minimum wage for regular employees over a 7-year period, for tipped employees, and for newly hired employees who are less than 20 years old.
  4. College for All Act of 2017 – S.806 and H.R.1880: The legislation would eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000 – about 80 percent of the population – and make community college tuition- and fee-free for all.
  5. Dream Act of 2017 – H.R.3440 and S.1615: This bill directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel removal and grant lawful permanent resident status on a conditional basis to an alien who is inadmissible or deportable or is in temporary protected status who: (1) has been continuously physically present in the United States for four years preceding this bill’s enactment; (2) was younger than 18 years of age on the initial date of U.S. entry; (3) is not inadmissible on criminal, security, terrorism, or other grounds; (4) has not participated in persecution; (5) has not been convicted of specified federal or state offenses; and (6) has fulfilled specified educational requirements. After the Trump Administration announced the end to an executive branch program that has protected up to 800,000 undocumented immigrants since 2012, Democrats and Republicans have introduced several bills in Congress, each of which would provide a path to documented and legal residence.
  6. Repeal (immediately) and Replace the Trump/Republican Tax Scam
  7. Progressive Income Tax for Illinois to remedy our revenue shortfall and provide property tax relief by properly funding our schools.
  8. Ranked Choice Voting Bill – SB0780: provides that members of the General Assembly and the offices Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller, and Treasurer shall be elected by ranked-choice voting allowing voters to rank their choice for candidates for those offices and provides for interpretations of certain ballot marks.
  9. Community Bank of Illinois Act – HB0107: Create the Community Bank of Illinois to for the benefit of farmers, small businesses, borrowers and homeowners that is accountable to the people of the state and operates on their behalf
  10. Restore Net Neutrality and ‘Public Broadband’ through the Illinois Century Network (ICN), a high performance network built to meet the Internet and Intranet needs of the educational, research, governmental and healthcare organizations serving the citizens of Illinois State wide.

I can see the creation of lots of well paying jobs coming out of this.

McConchie School Bus Safety Bill Passes

From state Senator Dan McConchie:

McConchie bill cracks down on drivers who pass stopped school buses

Legislation increases fines for violators

Springfield, IL… Those who do not properly stop for school buses on the roadway will be fined twice as much if Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs legislation sponsored by State Senator Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods).

House Bill 1873 passed the Senate on Thursday, May 16.

HB 1873 seeks to crack down on those who ignore the stop arm on school buses by increasing the fine from $150 to $300 for the first offense and $500 to $1,000 for the second or subsequent offense.

“According to the Illinois State Board of Education, on average, 33 school-age children are killed every year nationwide in school-bus related crashes, many of which are caused by a passing vehicle in violation of the school bus warning systems,” said Sen. McConchie.

“This offense should not be taken lightly. Those who ignore the stop arm pose a serious public safety threat to the thousands of schoolchildren across the state.”

HB 1873 passed the Senate unanimously with a vote of 53-0 and now heads to the Governor for his consideration.

Wilcox Reports

From State Senator Craig Wilcox:

Senate Week in Review: May 13 – 17, 2019

Springfield, IL. – It was a busy week for lawmakers who were at the Capitol Tuesday through Friday. Senate action included the passage of a critical local government consolidation bill, which is now just a step away from becoming law.

Meanwhile, a number of hot issues remain unresolved as the legislative session nears in scheduled last day.

The Senate also got a visit from an Illinois Rock n’ Roll legend.

McHenry Consolidation Passes

I’m happy to report the Illinois Senate gave final legislative approval May 16 to House Bill 348 allowing townships in McHenry County to consider dissolution with voter approval.

Most importantly, the proposal contains taxpayer protection provisions that are essential:

  • Ensures that counties or municipalities will receive the Motor Fuel Tax dollars dedicated to a dissolving township based on lane miles. It also protects local taxpayer dollars, preventing a dissolved township’s lane mile Motor Fuel Tax account from being redistributed state-wide.
  • The assets of the dissolved township or road district, especially if liquidated, must be used solely for the benefit of residents of the geographic area within the former boundaries of the township. This provision protects taxpayers who previously paid the taxes allowing the township to acquire those assets; and
  • Only the taxpayers within the dissolving township boundaries are responsible for paying any debt transferred to the county, which protects other county taxpayers.

Consolidation is a way to reduce the size of government in our lives, cut costs and deliver better government to the people.

This measure also includes an important provision that gives voters the opportunity to act on consolidation through the ballot box.

The overall goal of government consolidation is to save taxpayers’ money, but it must be fair and equitable, which I believe HB 348 achieves.

The measure, which only needs the Governor’s signature to become law, was introduced in the House by Rep. David McSweeney.

Village of Lindenhurst

The Senate also passed a related government consolidation measure on May 17. House Bill 3369 permits the Village of Lindenhurst to dissolve the Lindenhurst Sanitary District Board and transfer the board’s powers, including taxing authority, to the Village.

This is common sense legislation. The village currently operates the district’s equipment, and the sanitary district is largely coterminous with village boundaries, and there are no sanitary district users living outside village boundaries. I also commend the Village of Lindenhurst because it has been transparent with financial information and has expressed willingness to be good stewards of the duties of the sanitary district. Upon the retirement of the District’s debt, which stands at $10.8 million and is scheduled to be retired in 2032, then the village may finally dissolve the District itself and acquire all of its assets and responsibilities. HB 3369 was introduced in the House by Rep. Tom Weber.

Controversial Cannabis Legalization Gets a Hearing

On May 15, supporters and opponents packed a Senate Committee hearing room to debate the economic, health and social implications of legalized recreational marijuana, as detailed in Senate Bill 7.

The subject-matter hearing before the Senate Executive Committee included nearly three hours of testimony, some of it rancorous as supporters and opponents weighed in on the plan. The Committee’s Hearing Room was closed after it reached maximum capacity.

Senate Bill 7 would make it legal for residents 21 years of age and older to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis or 5 grams of concentrated cannabis. However, concerns were raised that convictions for possession of up to 500 grams – a Class 4 felony that would remain even if the bill were passed – would be eligible for expungement. Critics questioned why the bill provides for expungement for crimes that would still be illegal if the bill were to become law.

Other concerns have been raised over what revenue legalization could generate, and how it would be allocated. In his Budget Address earlier this year, Gov. Pritzker included $170 million from recreational cannabis to plug a hole in his budget proposal. During the hearing, however, the bill’s sponsor gave an estimate of only $56-57 million in Fiscal Year 2020, most of which would be dedicated to other programs.

According to Senate Executive Committee records, 602 people have filed witness slips supporting Senate Bill 7 and 1,187 people have filed slips opposing the bill.

Much Work Remains on Key Issues

With just two weeks until the General Assembly is supposed to adjourn on May 31, a number of important issues remain unresolved.

Lawmakers have yet to approve a budget for Fiscal Year 2020 and there’s a pending proposal to overhaul Illinois income tax system from a flat tax to a graduated tax system.

Other hot issues include the above-mentioned recreational marijuana, legalized sports betting and a massive infrastructure program that may include new taxes to pay for it.

It is important to note that millions in revenues for the proposed budget are linked to the passage of these programs, which runs counter to a provision in the Illinois Constitution that requires a proposed spending plan to be based only on revenue sources that are already in place.

Legislative committees have scheduled hearings on the issues in the coming days, but there is no guarantee that action will be taken on the bills.

A Rock n’ Roll Visitor

We get a lot of visitors to the Capitol on a daily basis, but not always a visit from someone famous.

Craig Wilcox and Rick Nielsen

On May15, rock guitarist, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick met with lawmakers to talk about a casino license for Rockford.

In 2007, April 1 was declared Cheap Trick Day in Illinois. The band was founded in the early 1970’s in Rockford.

Keep In Touch/Stay Informed

There are several ways to keep in touch with me. You can call my district or Capitol offices: 815/455-6330 or 217/782-8000 and you can email me at [email protected].


Check out my legislative website at www.senatorwilcox.com. There is a contact tab at the top of the page. I also post news from the Capitol and you can sign up for my free newsletter, and connect with state government agencies and resources. I also have an extensive list of sites veterans can use to connect to employment, education and service records.

DUI Earns Six Years

From the McHenry County State’s Attorney:

BEN SMART SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS FOR AGGRAVATED DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

Patrick D. Kenneally, McHenry County State’s Attorney, announces that Ben Smart, 51, of Chicago, Illinois, was found guilty of Aggravated Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, a Class 2 felony, following a negotiated plea before the Honorable Sharon Prather.

On April 15, 2018, a McHenry County Sheriff’s deputy stopped a vehicle operated by Smart.

Ben Smart

The defendant was arrested following a DUI investigation. Smart has two prior convictions for Driving Under the Influence in 2011 and 2016, both in Cook County.

Defendant will serve six (6) years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, pursuant to the plea.

Defendant was recently sentenced to six years in Cook County for felony Aggravated Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol.

The sentences will run concurrent.

This case was investigated by members of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department. This case was prosecuted by Robert Ladd of the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Mark Gerhardt Appointed Circuit Court Judge to Replace Judge Sharon Prather

From the McHenry County Circuit Court:

Associate Judge Mark R. Gerhardt Appointed to fill vacant 22nd Circuit Judgeship

Mark Gerhardt

(Woodstock, IL) Chief Judge James S. Cowlin is pleased to announce that effective July 15, 2019, Associate Judge Mark R. Gerhardt has been appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Judge Sharon L. Prather.

The appointment terminates on December 7, 2020, pending the results of the general election in 2020.

Judge Gerhardt began his tenure with the Court when he was appointed by the Circuit Judges of the Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit to a vacant Associate Judgeship position on March 28, 2011.

Since his appointment, Judge Gerhardt has served in the Family and Criminal Divisions of the Court.

Judge Gerhardt received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana in 1990 and his Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School in 1995.

Since graduating from law school, Judge Gerhardt served for nine years as an Assistant State’s Attorney in both Cook County and McHenry County.

In addition, Judge Gerhardt also practiced as an associate attorney for the law firms of Gummerson and Rausch and Wiejaczka Law

Sharon Prather

Judge Gerhardt previously taught Criminology at Trinity International University until 2013.

Judge Gerhardt is a current member and past president of the McHenry County Bar Association and has also served on the Board of Governors for that organization.

Additionally, Judge Gerhardt is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Illinois Judge’s Association.

= = = = =

Judge Prather was appointed as an Associate Judge on January 28, 1992, and became a circuit judge on December 2, 1996.

Jack Franks’ MCCD Fishing Expedition

The levies for the McHenry County Conservation District have been pretty constant for the last couple of years, as one can see below:

This reply from the Conservation District references the questions McHenry County Board Chairman asked:

  1. All reimbursements to Executive Director Kessler greater than $10 for the last five fiscal years including documentation for each expense reimbursed. There was only 1 reimbursement [$103.78 for a Days Inn in Memphis at a conference] and it is attached labeled #1 Exec. Director Expense Reimbursements.
  2. All payments to or on behalf of Ms. Kessler for her vehicle, including but not limited to fuel, maintenance, vehicle payments and insurance (please refer to the response to Chairman Franks posted on your website for other info). Fuel expenses are on Document 2 Copy of ESK Credit Card 04-01-14 to -3-31-19 expenses. [Most charges are for gas. Largest is for “WIRELESS KEYBD,MOUSE,CHGR” at $308.49.]
  3. All payments to or on behalf of Ms. Kessler for her cell phone, including any payments for a family plan. (Please refer to the response to Chairman Franks posted on your website for other info). Ms. Kessler has a standard issue employee cell phone for her
    business use only. In addition she has a ‘personal hotspot’ activated on that phone for a monthly cost, for remote access.
  4. All payments and/or premiums made to or on behalf of Ms. Kessler for her health insurance plan. See document #3 for these payments – it is for ‘employee only’ HSA high deductible PPO plan. Ms. Kessler pays 10% of the annual premium as cost sharing the same as any other employee on the same plan. She also receives $750 of annual HSA funding as incentive for participating in the high-deductible plan, the same as all other employees in the plan.
  5. All payments to or on behalf of Ms. Kessler for her computer, any computer-related equipment, software and Internet service. See document #2 for some of the credit card expenses and the response to Chairman Franks.
  6. A list of all payments made to IMRF on Ms. Kessler’s behalf since the inception of her employment. An estimate of the payments to IMRF are found on the response to Chairman Franks.
  7. Breakdown of all MCCD-owned lands being leased and rents received and expenses paid regarding these properties. See document #7 for the detail of all agricultural leases including revenue by lease for the last 4 fiscal years and related expenses. See document 7a for the Taxes paid on the farm leases (additional expense) for the last five years.
  8. Inventory of all MCCD land that is not being actively leases, used or managed. All property is being managed in some way, either through actively being farmed, used or restored or even for baseline inventory or public program access. And all are being walked by natural resource staff and other staff and/or volunteers on a regular basis. No
    document was provided for this because all land is being managed.
  9. All reimbursements greater than $10 made to each member of the MCCD Board of Trustees dating back to their appointments. See document #6 attached. [All are under $30.]

Comparing Springfield’s State Journal Register to the Northwest Herald

The State Journal-Register in Springfield made news among the journalism set when its five-year editor offered to resign to save jobs of reporters.

Springfield’s weekly paper, Illinois Times, wrote this story.

The paper is now owned by Gateway, which loves to cut costs.

The S J-R has a circulation of 17,000 on weekdays and 20,000 on weekends, according to Wikipedia.

Capitol Fax reports the Springfield paper is down to five reporters.

According to Wikepedia, the Northwest Herald has a circulation of “about 21,500.” Checking with the footnote, however, does not show a listing for the paper listed among other Chicagoland newspapers.

Where the Journal-Register on Wikipedia lists the circulation figures cited above, the Northwest Herald shows weekday circulation of 32,934 and Sunday distribution of 34,961.

I’ve been told the NWH has five or six reporters.

Farmers Urged to Recycle Chemical Containers

From the JB Preitzker Administration:

IDOA TO OFFER FREE RECYCLING PROGRAM FOR AGRICHEMICAL CONTAINERS

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) is encouraging farmers and agrichemical facilities to save their empty agrichemical containers as they will once again be hosting free container recycling days throughout the State.

Beginning the middle of August and continuing into September, sites throughout the State will collect the empty containers which will be recycled and made into shipping pallets, plastic lumber, and other useful products.

“This program offers farmers and agrichemical facilities a convenient opportunity to dispose of empty pesticide containers while also helping to protect the environment,” said John Sullivan, Director, IDOA.  “I encourage farmers to gather any containers they may have been planning to throw out and take them to the nearest collection site to be repurposed.”

Metal and household pesticide containers are not eligible for the recycling program.  Collection sites will accept only high-density polyethylene, #2 plastic agrichemical containers that are clean and dry.  Participants are responsible for rinsing them and removing all caps, labels, booklets, and foil seals.

The program is a cooperative venture between the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Container Recycling Council, GROWMARK, Inc., Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, G. Phillips and Sons, L.L.C., Illinois Farm Bureau, and the University of Illinois Extension.

Additional information can be found on the IDOA website at agriculture.illinois.gov, click on the “Environment” tab and then “Agrichemicals”.

The collection sites and dates for the 2019 Pesticide Container Recycling Program are as follows:

  • morning of August 27th at Conserv/FS in Marengo. The contact person is Scott Creek at 815-568-7211.