Barb Wheeler Reports

A communication from State Rep. Barb Wheeler:

The Wheeler 64 Report: October 5, 2016

Wheeler Named “Guardian of Small Business” by Independent Business Group

wheeler-nfib-10-16There were several bills during this General Assembly that represented an attack on small business owners in Illinois. Ninety-eight percent of Illinois’ businesses are small businesses, so when I vote in Springfield I always do what I can to support these primary drivers of our Illinois economy. It was a pleasure to learn recently that I was named a “Guardian of Small Business” in recognition of votes taken in Springfield during 2015-2016. In an independent review of my voting record, I scored a perfect 100%.

The award, given every two years by the non-partisan National Federation of Independent Business/Illinois (NFIB), judged lawmakers on their votes on 11 key bills during the 99th General Assembly. The bills included: HB 6162, SB 2964, HB 3887, HB 1285, SB 162, HB 1287, SB 2933, HB 4036, SB 11, HB 5576 and HJRCA 26. Lawmakers who received an 80% or higher rating received the award.

Kim Clark Maisch, State Director of NFIB/Illinois, had this to say about my voting record in Springfield: “Small business is an extremely important part of Illinois’ economic engine, and Representative Barbara Wheeler’s 100% voting record with the NFIB demonstrates her commitment to helping small businesses succeed in a very tough environment.

Barb Wheeler

Barb Wheeler

Small businesses are our primary job creators, and Representative Wheeler stood up on behalf of these businesses time and time again in her representation of Illinois’ 64th District.”

NFIB/Illinois includes over 11,000 small business members from across the state. A link to a summary of the 11 key business bills and an overall tally and ranking of all Illinois State Representatives and Senators can be found at:

FAFSA Applications Now Open for 2017-2018 School Year

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the key to securing federal, state and institutional (through a college or university) aid for college. From the Pell Grant to the MAP Grant, work-study opportunities and federal student loans, filing a FAFSA is the first step for eligible students who wish to receive financial assistance with their college education. Whereas the FAFSA has always been available beginning in January of each calendar year, a recent change now moves that timetable back so that now the FAFSA is available on October 1 of each year.

Because some financial aid is awarded to eligible students on a first-come, first-served basis (especially MAP Grants), students seeking assistance are encouraged to file their FAFSA as soon as possible. Resources are available to help students and families navigate the process. For additional information, visit to view a list of workshops and events or call 1-800-899-4722 to reach the agency’s call center.

Illinois Observes First Gold Star Family Day

Ceremonies in recognition of Illinois’ first Gold Star Family Day were held at the Illinois State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 26. Gold Star Family Day honors the families of U.S. service personnel who have died in combat or as a result of combat-related action. The first annual Gold Star Family Day was created byHB 4389, a bill I was proud to support. It was signed into law in August 2016 as P.A. 99-803. At the ceremony, bill sponsor State Rep. Steve Andersson spoke about the importance of this day for Illinois and thanked the families of the fallen servicemen and women for all that they have given.

Global Insurance Firm opens North American Headquarters in Schaumburg

Zurich American Insurance building.

Zurich American Insurance building.

Zurich North America marked the official opening of its headquarters campus on Wednesday, Sept. 28 with a photographic tour of the new facility. The new headquarters is located less than 15 miles from O’Hare International Airport. For those of us who live in this area, as we drive toward Chicago on I-90, we can view the new building and its amazing architecture on the north side of the interstate near the Route 53/290 exit.

The firm states that they currently insure at least part of the operations of 90% of all of the Fortune 500 companies, generating nearly $1.3 billion in positive economic impact for Illinois. Their new Zurich site is opening at a time ofsubstantial changes in the traditionally staid property/casualty insurance industry, with a substantial shift in focus toward multi-faceted risk engineering, risk management, and alternative logistics solutions.

Six-Member Civil Jury Law Overturned

A law enacted in late 2014 (I was a ‘no’ vote on the bill [emphasis added]), reduced the maximum size of Illinois civil juries from 12 to 6. Approved by largely partisan roll calls in the General Assembly and signed by former Gov. Quinn, the law was described as a way to make the civil courts more efficient. Part of the money saved by reducing the sizes of juries would have been allocated to a pay increase for jurors, but even after the increase the maximum pay for each juror under this new law would have been only $50/day.

Opponents of the controversial measure, including most Republicans, pointed out concerns that the Constitution does not allow the sizes of juries to be changed by statute.

They also shared concerns that the measure had been advocated by powerful trial attorneys who were using the law as an additional opportunity to enlarge their control over Illinois circuit courts.

The Illinois Supreme Court struck down P.A. 98-1132 last week, ruling it unconstitutional. The high court’s vote was 5-0, with two judges recusing themselves. The decision was handed down on Thursday, Sept. 22.

Police Work with New State Law, Produce Instructional Video for Drivers’ Education

A new law passed by the General Assembly in spring 2016 asks students taking drivers’ education courses to learn safe procedures to follow during traffic stops. The new law will be fully implemented in the 2017-18 school year. Many school districts are already including safe-police-stop procedures in their instructions to young and probationary drivers.

The Central Illinois Film Commission is working on a new instructional videodemonstrating safe and unsafe police/driver interactions. After production and post-production work, the video is expected to be distributed to high schools before the end of calendar year 2016. The video, which is being produced in Springfield, is being supported by the FBI, local NAACP leaders, and representatives of local law enforcement.

The 23-minute video will describe and demonstrate the importance of remaining calm, keeping one’s hands in view at all times (usually by putting them on the steering wheel), and pre-notifying the officer when moving one’s hands (typically to uncover documentation such as a driver’s license or insurance card). The video will also describe the rights that citizens have when in the presence of law enforcement.

In 2015, two million traffic stops were reported by police to the Illinois Department of Transportation – approximately 1 stop for every 6 Illinoisans. The new 2016 traffic-stop-education law, HB 6131, was approved unanimously by both houses of the General Assembly and signed into law as P.A. 99-720.

Ninety-Five Percent of Eligible Chicago Teachers Vote to Strike

The strike authorization vote was announced by the Chicago Teachers Union on Monday, September 26. The financially troubled Chicago Public Schools district (CPS) employs approximately 25,000 teachers and union-eligible ancillary personnel. CPS observers said that the union is taking a series of legal steps that could result in a strike as soon at October 11, although CPS has several potential legal steps they could take to try to prevent or delay the strike. CPS, in its opposition to the proposed strike, points to an 8.75% pay hike that it is offering to teachers and educators over a four-year period.

The potential strike adds to the challenges facing CPS in the 2016-17 school year. The cash-strapped school district was forced to borrow money in 2015-16 to cover immediate operating expenses and its credit rating has dropped below “junk bond” levels. Major Chicago property tax increases have not yet yielded sufficient revenue to halt a downward spiral in CPS’s perceived operating status and the long-term solvency of its pension funds.

Health Care Providers Report Sharp Increase in Official Diagnoses of Concussions among Teenagers

The diagnosis count increased 83% from 2010 to 2015 among a large subset of Illinois children aged 10 to 19. The subset is made up of those children and young adults that are members of households insured by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Illinois’ largest health care insurer. Blue Cross reports that more than 8 million of the 12.9 million people of Illinois are covered by their firm. The numbers reflect diagnostic codings reached by health care professionals, used by them as a basis for follow-up treatments of their patients, and submitted to Blue Cross for requested reimbursement.

It is not known to what extent, if any, concussions are growing in Illinois. Health care providers have worked hard in recent years to improve their screening for this diagnosis when a patient is presented for treatment. Many older Illinoisans will remember incidents, especially on a sports field, when a young person would have reported that he was “feeling woozy” and, instead of being diagnosed and treated by trained medical personnel, would have been urged to sit down until he felt better.

The General Assembly has taken significant actions in recent years to treat teenage concussions, particularly in high school sports. The Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, passed in spring 2015, has led to a series of new guidelines from the Illinois High School Association. A principle guideline mandates that school coaches and officials undergo both first-time training and, as a follow-up, continuing education in the field diagnosis of concussions and other acute medical conditions. Additional guidelines set forth pathways and markers for an affected student, his or her family and caregivers, and his or her athletic trainers to follow in returning a person diagnosed with a concussion to possible future sports activity.

Tour of the Pistakee Lake Watershed Studies Water Quality and Plant/Wildlife

The sun was shining as a boat full of environmentalists toured the Pistakee Lake Watershed on the Chain O’Lakes. The boat tour was a recap of issues studied through a grant received by Lake County Storm Water Management and the Fox Waterway Agency. The group had been meeting for months looking at the impacts occurring to water quality on the Chain O’Lakes. The group is hoping to receive Federal 319 grant money to provide solutions to improve water quality.

The Pistakee Lake Watershed Tour reviewed shoreline protection situations which impact aquatic plant life. Participants also discussed port of entries within the watershed which cause pollution impacting water clarity. Discussion took place about the importance of wetlands and it was interesting to find out that one acre of wetland equals one million gallons of water. There is great concern about the dwindling acreage of functional wetlands within the Chain O’Lakes area and the sedimentation loads occurring on Grass Lake, which at one time was over 100 feet deep according to the Fox Waterway Agency.

Chain of Lakes

Chain of Lakes

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division was encouraged by a new group that was formed recently in Wisconsin called the Sewer Pac, which will be reviewing negative impacts within the Fox River Watershed in Wisconsin which flows directly through the Chain O’Lakes here in Illinois. According Wayne Blake, Chairman of the Fox Waterway Agency, between 50,000 and 70,000 cubic yards of sedimentation is entering the Chain O’Lakes yearly, with a large percentage of that coming from agricultural lands in Wisconsin.

The Pistakee Lake Watershed group toured the lotus beds which were successfully re-established by the Fox Waterway over 20 years ago. After the lotus plants are established it takes seven years for the seeds to germinate to produce new plants. The lotus beds originally grew in this area back in the late 1800’s but were killed off from a severe winter. The lotus beds were a large tourism draw because Grass Lake was only one of three areas world-wide where the lotus beds grew. The flowers were cultivated to make fragrant perfume which was sold by local businesses in the early 1900’s.

The Pistakee Lake Watershed Group also toured the geo-tube-created island off of Grass Lake Channel. The island was created over 20 years ago, and was made with dredged material. It is a habitat for many endangered species, including the pelicans who nest there when looking for shade. Officials for the Fox Waterway are still looking into creating and recreating islands to put the silt sedimentations back where it came from and creating wetlands which provide a habitat for wildlife. The Fox Waterway Agency also discussed alternatives for dredging containment sites.


Barb Wheeler Reports — 3 Comments

  1. Check into how many legal U.S. residents and citizens were dismissed from Zurich and replaced with “imports” over the past ten years!

  2. Vote Republican this fall to show support for an end to the “union” / “progressive” control of this State!!!! A vote for Franks for any office is a vote for a “progressive” union controlled liar!!

  3. The Barb Wheeler PAC (Barbara Wheeler 64) reported a An IUOE Local 150 PAC reported a $3,000 contribution from an IUOE PAC (Chicago Land Operators Joint Labor Management PAC) today.

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