Demmer’s Dispatch: July 1, 2019

Legislators Spend Summer Focusing on Local Constituent Needs 

With the legislature adjourned until the fall veto session in October and November, I am spending these next few months at home in the 90th District tending to the needs of the constituents I serve in Ogle, Lee, DeKalb and LaSalle Counties. There are 32 different municipalities within the boundaries of the 90th District, and I have been meeting with elected officials from several of them to discuss how legislation approved this year will affect them locally. I have also been providing end-of-session updates to farm bureaus and business groups in the district.

My staff and I are finalizing a list of summer outreach events, which include mobile office hours throughout the district and a September 21 Children’s Health & Safety Expo. All of these events will be publicized on my web site (tomdemmer.org), and a summary list of events can be found here. If there is an issue you would like to discuss, please make plans to attend a mobile office hours event in or near your community, or call my office at (815) 561-3690 to set up an appointment.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Efforts to Nullify Gerrymandered Maps

Last week the Supreme Court issued a decision that makes it more important than ever for Illinois to take steps to end the process of gerrymandering legislative maps. In a 5-4 decision on June 27, the Supreme Court ruled that federal judges do not have the authority to correct gerrymandered maps drawn to protect majority party legislators. What this means is politicians who hold majorities can continue to draw maps that protect incumbents and solidify their control.

This process will continue until the state enacts a law preventing it. Just look at the map above, which shows current House Districts in Northern Illinois. It is a good example of what happens when majority party politicians draw their own boundaries and choose their own voters. A non-gerrymandered map would include districts that are more uniform in shape. Today’s partisan map-drawing process stifles democracy. Regardless of the party in control, gerrymandered maps undermine our representative form of government.

This year I joined all members of the House Republican Caucus in sponsoring a Constitutional Amendment that would remove the map process from the hands of politicians who gerrymander district boundary lines for political and personal gain. HJRCA10 is modeled after prior Independent Map citizen initiatives. The measure would amend the Legislature Article of the Illinois Constitution by removing the mapping process from the hands of politicians and establishing an independent, non-partisan commission to draw fair maps after each 10-year Census. The Commission would be comprised of 11 randomly selected members who would hold public hearings throughout the state before and after releasing a proposed district boundary plan.

HJRCA 10 was filed on January 17 and never left the House Rules Committee. With the Supreme Court decision last week, I am renewing my call for Illinois to take appropriate steps to end the practice of gerrymandering. Click here to sign my fair maps petition, and let lawmakers know that people should choose their Representative rather than Representatives choosing their constituents.

Demmer Joins Local Officials for Groundbreaking for Rochelle Airport Improvements

On Friday it was my pleasure to join local and state officials at a groundbreaking ceremony for runway improvements at the Rochelle Municipal Airport. The airport, known as Koritz Field, is a vital element of the region’s transportation infrastructure, and it provides for economic growth in and around Rochelle.

The project will be funded by state, local and federal resources, and includes runway, ramp and taxiway improvements. The Rochelle Municipal Airport helps us add jobs and promotes investment in our local economy, and I am looking forward to the completion of this important project.

Four New Laws Taking Effect on July 1

July 1 marks the first day of the state’s new fiscal year, and in addition to the balanced budget that will govern spending from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, the following legislation signed by Governor JB Pritzker takes effect today:

  • HB 345: Known as the “Tobacco 21” bill, this new law prohibits anyone from selling or providing cigarettes or vaping materials to individuals under the age of 21.
  • SB 28: This new law ensures that Illinois school children are receiving at least five hours of instruction per day in public schools. While the five-hour school day has been in place for several years, this new law takes into account instances when students take college classes for dual high school and college credit, those participating in career development programs away from school, and schools offering blended learning programs for students.
  • SB 1814: As part of this year’s budget implementation bill, individuals working for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) who provide services to children at risk will receive a 5% increase in their reimbursement rates. It is the first increase these employees have received in several years.
  • SB 1939: A key element of the $45 billion capital projects bill is an increase to the gas tax that takes effect at the gas pump on July 1. This increase will fund vital road and bridge projects across the state, including many in the 90th District.

Tougher Penalties for Texting While Driving Take Effect on July 1

A recent survey of Illinois high school students shows that nearly half of Illinois teens admit to texting while driving. Starting today, Illinois drivers caught using or even just holding an electronic device while behind the wheel of a car will now be issued a moving violation ticket. Unlike previous distracted driving laws, tickets issued under this new state law will go on a driver’s permanent record. Fines start at $75 for a first offense and escalate by $25 to a maximum of $150, and three or more repeat offenses of texting while driving could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license. These new rules are not limited to cellphones. They apply to any electronic communication device, including hand-held personal digital assistant, tablet or laptop computers. While adopted last year during the 100th General Assembly, the law that includes these new penalties had an effective date of July 1, 2019.

Motor Fuel Tax Revenue Protected in “Lockbox”

The “Safe Roads/Transportation Lockbox Amendment” was a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that was approved by voters in the November 2016 general election. The Amendment was introduced in response to decades-long misuse of transportation related revenues, namely the Road Fund State Construction Account Fund, and the Motor Fuel Tax Fund. The Transportation for Illinois Coalition (TFIC), a group that spear-headed the Constitutional Amendment, argued that close to $6.8 billion of transportation related funds were raided between FY02 and FY15 and used for other costs.

This Amendment changed the Illinois Constitution to prohibit the use of money collected through transportation fees from being used for anything other than transportation related expenditures. Under the amendment, transportation funds may be used by the State or local governments only for the following purposes:

  1. Costs related to administering transportation and vehicle laws, including public safety purposes and the payment of obligations such as bonds
  2. The State or local share necessary to secure federal funds or for local government transportation purposes as authorized by law
  3. The construction, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance, and operation of highways, mass transit, and railroad crossings
  4. Expenses related to workers’ compensation claims for death or injury of transportation agency employees
  5. To purchase land for building highways or buildings to be used for highway purposes

This year’s SB 1939 creates the Transportation Renewal Fund and provides that the new 19-cent increase in motor fuel taxes be placed in the newly created fund. The increase is distributed as follows:

  • 80% for roads and bridges; of which:
    • 60% to the State Construction Account Fund
      • Funds in State Construction Account Fund can only be used for the construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of the State maintained highway system
    • 40% to Local Governments (identical to existing distribution to local governments)
  • 20% for transit (90% RTA, 10% downstate)

Beginning on July 1, 2020, the Auditor General will be required to conduct an annual audit to provide for additional protections against any transportation diversions from the MFT increase.

Demmer Joins Local Volunteers for Rochelle Park Rebuild

I recently had an opportunity to attend the kick-off event for work to rebuild the playground at Cooper Park in Rochelle. This park is a gem within the Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District, and it was great to see such a large group of community volunteers eager to pitch in and donate their time toward this park improvement. I enjoyed seeing the community come together and show pride in this local park and in their community. I’m shown in this photo with volunteers from IlliniCare, A Medicaid Managed Care Organization, who volunteered their time and talents to the project.

Mark your Calendar for Upcoming Events in the 90th District

Please mark your calendar for the upcoming events I am hosting in the 90th District:

  • Tuesday, July 16: Mobile Office Hours: 11:15AM until 12:15PM at Fox Valley Older Adult Services, 1406 Suydam Road in Sandwich
  • Tuesday, August 20: Mobile Office Hours: 10:00AM until 11:00AM at Rock River Center, 810 S. 10th Street in Oregon
  • Tuesday, September 10: Mobile Office Hours: 10:00AM until 11:00AM at the Hub City Senior Center, 401 Cherry Avenue in Rochelle
  • Saturday, September 21: Children’s Health & Safety Expo: 9:00AM until Noon at Reagan Middle School, 620 Division Street in Dixon

Illinois Celebrates 100th Year of Ratification of 19th Amendment

June 10 marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment’s ratification in Illinois. This year I was proud to support HR 96, which recognizes Illinois as a proud leader in the story of women’s suffrage in the United States, and commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment’s ratification in Illinois. The 19th amendment forbids the states or the federal government from denying a person the right to vote on the basis of sex. This momentous act opened the door for women to vote for all offices. HR 96 commemorates granting women the right to vote with special attention to Illinois’ proud place in the effort. Illinois is home to storied women’s right advocates and suffragists like Jane Addams, Frances Willard, and Ruth Hanna McCormick.

In 1913, Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi to grant women the right to vote. When Congress proposed the 19th Amendment in 1919, it was sponsored by Illinois Republican Congressman James Mann. Thanks to the efforts of Ruth Hanna McCormick and Grace Wilbour Trout, Illinois was ready when it was sent to the states on June 4th and on June 10th Illinois became the first state to ratify it. With the help of activists, such as Addams and Trout, and political figures, such as McCormick, the 19th Amendment was ratified nationwide in less than eighteen months.

After the approval of HR 96 earlier this year, copies of the resolution were presented to the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, the Frances Willard House Museum and Archives in Evanston, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation/Cantigny Park in Wheaton.