Demmer’s Dispatch: February 11, 2019

Demmer Champions Term Limits for Legislative Leaders in Springfield

Governor JB Pritzker is on record as favoring term limits for legislative leaders, so we have a real opportunity to work in a bipartisan manner this year to enact legislation that would significantly improve our processes. I recently signed on as a leading sponsor of legislation that would enact term limits for the four legislative leaders in the General Assembly. HJRCA 12 would amend the Legislature Article of the Illinois Constitution to limit the number of years any lawmaker could serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives, President of the Senate, Minority Leader of the House, or Minority Leader of the Senate. Through the Amendment, legislative leaders would be limited to serving for a total of eight years in any one position and 12 years combined in two or more positions.

Three of the four legislative caucuses have instituted term limits on leaders via internal caucus rules: House Republicans, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats. House Democrats, ruled by Mike Madigan, have not set internal term limits.

Demmer Joins Republicans in Opposing Madigan’s House Rules
Every two years, House Speaker Mike Madigan requires two critical votes from Democrat members. The first is their vote to re-elect him Speaker of the House. This happened on January 9th. The second, in order to maintain near-complete, singular control over the legislative process, he requires them to vote to adopt his proposed set of House Rules, the rules that govern how the House of Representatives operates for the next two years.

Last Tuesday, Speaker Madigan pushed through the same tired, draconian Rules that have been in place for decades. Madigan’s Rules were contained in House Resolution 59, which was supported by every House Democrat on the floor. I was vocal with my opposition to Madigan’s House Rules, and said, “Don’t vote for rules today that give up the power that your constituents gave to you. Don’t vote for rules today that put the power in one person’s hand at the expense of the other 117 members of this body.” Click here to watch my floor comments during the Rules debate.

House Republicans believe we must break the Speaker’s stranglehold on power and instead, give power back to the people of Illinois and their duly elected representatives. We offered the following reasonable Rules reforms as part of House Resolution 62:

1.  Require Committee Vote for Bipartisan Bills & Resolutions Pending in Committee – Require that when a bill or resolution in committee has at least five co-sponsors from the majority caucus and at least five co-sponsors from the minority caucus, the Committee Chairperson must provide an opportunity to the bill sponsor to present the bill for consideration and a committee vote.

2.  Create Waiting Period for Floor Amendments – Create a longer public review period before consideration of floor amendments and concurrence motions by prohibiting consideration until the calendar day after notice is posted for a hearing or the calendar day after the measure is reported directly to the House from the Rules Committee.

3.  Create Waiting Period After Committee Testimony – Require that the initial testimony and discussion of bills in committee must occur before a vote of the committee on the reporting motion; and such committee vote may not occur on the same calendar day that testimony was heard.

4.  Require House Vote for Bills & Resolutions Supported by Bipartisan Supermajority – Provide that a motion signed by 71 members guarantees a vote of the House on a bill or resolution.  At least five members affiliated with the majority party and five members affiliated with the minority party must be included among the 71 or more signatories.  Such bills would be discharged from a standing/special/Rules committee, or transferred from the regular calendar, and placed on an order of business that the House must go to each day that it convenes in regular session; and sponsors of bills on the order would have the right to call their bills for a vote whenever the House is on that order.

5.  Extend Time for the House to Consider Motions to Discharge Standing/Special Committee – Provide that for six session days after the committee reporting deadline the House may still consider motions to discharge from standing or special committees.  Currently, bills remaining in committee on date of the reporting deadline are immediately re-referred to the Rules Committee, which means that the motion to discharge from standing committee, which requires 60 votes for adoption, is no longer an option.

These reforms would foster an environment of individual legislator empowerment, regardless of partisan affiliation. Unfortunately, Speaker Madigan did not allow a vote on HR 62.

Rep. Demmer Local Legislative Office Moves to Dixon; Open House Scheduled for March 2
Earlier this month, my local district office moved to a new location in Dixon. For the last six years, my district office had been located in Rochelle, and it served us well. I had previously been able to host meetings in Dixon at the office of Senator Tim Bivins. With his retirement, I decided to relocate our principal office to Dixon. This new location will be a shared spot with Senator Brian Stewart, which will allow us both to serve our constituents well. The new office location is 105 E. First Street, Suite 110, in Dixon. The phone number will remain (815) 561-3690, and office hours will still be 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Monday through Thursday.

Senator Stewart and I will be hosting an open house at the new office on Saturday, March 2, from 9:00 AM until 11:00 AM. Please stop by and say hello!

Mobile Office Hours Coming to the 90th District
The 90th District includes all or parts of 32 different municipalities, and I am very aware that many people would have to travel quite a ways for an appointment. Starting in March, a member of my staff will travel to a different 90th District Community one day each month so that our office’s resources can be brought to people in a location that is convenient for them. In addition, my staff is always available to travel to other communities for individual appointments with constituents.

The 90th District is located in Ogle, Lee, DeKalb and LaSalle Counties. The District includes all or portions of the following communities: Amboy, Ashton, Byron, Compton, Creston, Davis Junction, DeKalb, Dixon, Earlville, Franklin Grove, Grand Detour, Hillcrest, Lake Holiday, Lee, Leland, Lost Nation, Malta, Mendota, Monroe Center, Nelson, Oregon, Paw Paw, Polo, Rochelle, Sandwich, Shabbona, Somonauk, Steward, Stillman Valley, Sublette, Waterman and West Brooklyn.

January 2019 Revenue Numbers Released
The new numbers from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the nonpartisan budget-monitoring arm of the General Assembly, show a continued trend of slightly increased State revenue related to recurring year-earlier cash flow trends. Revenues for January 2019 failed to match the spiked revenues of January 2018, which were one-time-only numbers that reflected the passage of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in December 2017. 

The first seven months of FY19 showed continued State of Illinois cash flow progress, reflecting strong economic numbers in the Chicago metro area. Personal income tax payments and sales tax receipts closely track the numbers of workers employed in Illinois and related consumer spending. During the seven months of FY19 year-to-date, total State income from taxes is up $1,154 million from the year-earlier seven-month period. This increase is associated with healthier personal income tax payments (up $537 million), sales tax remittals (up $374 million) and corporate income taxes (up $174 million). The $1,085 million in net increased cash flows garnered from these three sources made up well more than 90 percent of the overall year-over-year increase of $1,154 million in State tax cash flow.

The increase in cash flowing into the State Treasury is not nearly sufficient to close Illinois’ “structural deficit.” Illinois taxpayers continue to struggle with the burden of exponential increases in health care costs, billions of dollars in unpaid bills, and more than $100 billion in unfunded defined-benefit pension liabilities.

Illinois Responds to Record-Breaking Cold Temperatures
The “Polar Vortex” weather conditions of late January 2019 created icy thermometers throughout Illinois. Frigid temperatures with dangerous wind chills have extended into February. Many schools, government offices and businesses had to close on January 30th and 31st, and the state’s economy was affected. When adjusted for wind chill, temperatures dropped below -40°F in many parts of the state. Warming centers operated throughout Illinois and emergency shelters gave spaces to the homeless.

Governor Pritzker called for an emergency preparedness plan and issued a disaster proclamation. Public safety officials urged Illinoisans to stay indoors whenever possible, and to take preparedness steps, including the wearing of mittens and layered clothing, to avoid hypothermia and frostbite. Further cold snaps are likely during the rest of this winter of 2019.

Representative Tom Demmer to Continue Leadership Roles on Illinois’ Healthcare Committees 
Last week members of the House began vetting the hundreds of bills that have already been filed in the 101st General Assembly. I am pleased to announce that I will once again be a leading voice in policy discussions that relate to delivery, access and funding of healthcare for Illinoisans. It’s an honor to continue in my role as the Republican Spokesperson for the Appropriations- Human Services Committee. Human Services is the largest area of state spending, and ensuring that taxpayer funds are allocated in a manner that maximizes people’s ability to access to the healthcare they need is vital.

In addition to this leadership role on this appropriations committee, I will also be serving as the ranking Republican on the Prescription Drug Affordability & Access Committee. Access to affordable medications is another critical component of adequate healthcare, and I look forward to working with other members on this committee to improve overall safety, processes and outcomes.

Other committee assignments for the 101st General Assembly include the Healthcare Availability & Access, and Human Services Committees, where a variety of other bills that address health concerns will be heard. Additionally, I will serve as a member of the Cybersecurity, Data Analytics & IT Committee.

Illinois’ Tax Burden Ranked 11th of 50 States
The ranking came from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, which found that residents of 38 of the 50 states are expected to enjoy lower state and local per-capita tax burdens than residents of Illinois in calendar year 2019. According to the Tax Foundation, states with lower average per-capita state and local tax burdens than Illinois include the neighboring states of Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin, and the large states of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. States with a higher average per-capita state and local tax burden than Illinois include high-tax California and New York. 

The Tax Foundation expects the average Illinoisan to have to pay $5,654 in state and local taxes in calendar year 2019. This leaves out taxes paid to the federal government, as well as payments to governments not classified as taxes (such as fees, fines, and pubic-sector charges). This number is for each individual Illinois resident, and can be multiplied for a picture of the burden upon families and multi-member households with two or more people. 

New Reading and Math Tests will be Rolled out this Spring
The statewide Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam has been assigned to all public elementary school pupils since 2015. With three years of feedback from teachers, parents, and school administrators, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has examined and approved modifications to the exam. A significant number of questions have been removed and the English/literacy portion of the test has been reduced from 4.5 hours to 3.0 hours. These modifications are intended to respond to complaints, especially from teachers, that the PARCC test takes up too much time and interferes with actual teaching.

Other criticisms of the PARCC exam, and data derived from it, center on the rigor of the test. Since the 2001 enactment of “No Child Left Behind” there has been an emphasis on testing schools and entire school systems, as well as pupils, with the goal of driving out complacency and acceptance of mediocrity. As currently calibrated, the PARCC test assessed only 40 percent of Illinois elementary and middle-school test-takers as being “proficient” in math and reading. These findings have raised many concerns about PARCC test score questions, calibrations, and result reports, and the ISBE responded to these concerns this week. In a public announcement, the Board stated they would turn the next phase of their PARCC modification oversight to issues of question selection and result reporting. Over a four-year period beginning this spring, the ISBE will look at, and possibly phase in, modifications to the PARCC exam in response to concerns raised about the current rigor of the test and the way questions are selected for use in the test.