Demmer’s Dispatch: September 3, 2019

Rep. Demmer and Sen. Stewart to Host Children’s Health & Safety Expo on September 21
Final Plans are coming together for a free Children’s Health & Safety Expo I’m hosting with Senator Brian Stewart on Saturday, September 21 in Dixon.

The expo, which will take place from 9:00 AM until 12:00 PM at Reagan Middle School, 620 Division Street in Dixon, will feature a Police K-9 demonstration, the landing of a LIFESTAR medical helicopter, a large touch-a-truck interactive exhibit and more than 35 booths staffed by a variety of groups and organizations that assist children and families.

Admission is free, and there will be free refreshments and giveaways at the event. For more information about this and other events sponsored by my office this summer and fall, visit the “Events” page at tomdemmer.org or call my office at (815) 561-3690.

New Enterprise Zones Approved

With House Republicans taking the advocacy lead, the Illinois Enterprise Zone Board approved the creation of fourteen new Enterprise Zones throughout the state. The Enterprise Zone Act contains many provisions intended to encourage the creation of jobs and capital investment in designated Enterprise Zones, including tax breaks on goods and energy sold for job-creating use within the Zones. 

The Enterprise Zone Act enumerates economically-challenged regions within Illinois that are ripe for redevelopment. Each Enterprise Zone is formed through a partnership between a jurisdictional local government and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Until 2019, the number of Illinois enterprise zones had been capped at 97. In a move pushed by House Republicans, the General Assembly amended the Act to work with DCEO to designate a significant number of new Zones. The list of new zones was released by DCEO on Tuesday, August 27.

Upcoming Mobile Office Hours Dates in 90th District

As your State Representative in Springfield, it is my honor to act as the liaison between the residents of the 90th District and the State of Illinois. In addition to serving as your voice in the legislature, my knowledgeable staff is available to assist with constituent issues that involve state agencies. While my legislative assistant spends most days at the Dixon office, mobile office hours are offered every month in other District 90 communities. If you need help navigating a state system, please attend a mobile office hours near you, or contact my office to make arrangements for a private appointment in your community. Upcoming mobile office hours dates include:

  • Tuesday, September 10: 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM at the Hub City Senior Center, 401 Cherry Avenue in Rochelle
  • Tuesday, October 22: 11:15 AM until 12:15 PM at Fox Valley Older Adult Services, 1406 Suydam Road in Sandwich
  • Tuesday, November 12: 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM at the Hub City Senior Center, 401 Cherry Avenue in Rochelle
  • Tuesday, November 19: 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM at Rock River Center, 810 S. 10th Street in Oregon
  • Tuesday, December 3: 11:15 AM until 12:15 PM at Fox Valley Older Adult Services, 1406 Suydam Road in Sandwich
  • Tuesday, December 17: 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM at Rock River Center, 810 S. 10th Street in Oregon

Federal Disaster Declaration Sought in Wake of Historic Spring Floods
With the state’s disaster assessment concluded, Governor JB Pritzker has officially requested a federal disaster declaration be issued for Illinois due to the devastating floods that plagued our state since February 2019. In his request, Governor Pritzker requested Individual Assistance (IA) for 22 counties and Public Assistance (PA) for 32 counties. If approved, a federal disaster declaration would help local governments, residents and businesses affected by this historic flood recover from the disaster by allowing them to apply for grants and loans to assist with storm-related expenses and losses. Counties within the 90th District are included in the Public Assistance request.
 
Counties included in the Public Assistance (PA) request: Adams; Alexander; Bureau; Calhoun; Carroll; Cass; Fulton; Greene; Hancock; Henderson; Henry; Jackson; Jersey; Knox; LaSalle; Lee; Madison; Mercer; Monroe; Morgan; Peoria; Pike; Randolph; Rock Island; Schuyler; Scott; St. Clair; Stephenson; Tazewell; Union; Whiteside; and Winnebago counties.
 
Counties included in the Individual Assistance (IA) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans request: Adams; Alexander; Calhoun; Carroll; Hancock; Henderson; Henry; Jackson; Jersey; Knox; Madison; Mercer; Monroe; Peoria; Pike; Randolph; Rock Island; Stephenson; Union; Whiteside; Winnebago; and Woodford counties.

To support this request for a federal disaster declaration, documentation was included from the recent joint damage assessment, conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and affected communities. This assessment illustrated the devastating effects of this flood event:

• More than $69 million in direct losses, including over $8.2 million in losses for individuals and $61 million in losses for units of state, county and local governments.  This does not include the millions in other economic impacts, such as lost wages to individuals, lost revenue for businesses, and lost tax revenues for impacted governments. 

• Over 1,000 miles of roadway and bridges were damaged or left inaccessible, affecting some of the most vulnerable populations. Many still are. This disruption forced residents to travel up to two hours to receive healthcare or basic necessities like groceries.

• More than 1,400 homes and 2.1 million people were impacted by this flood event. Of that, 42 homes were destroyed, 178 sustained major damage, 419 were listed as having minor damage and another 708 were impacted by rising floodwaters.

• An SBA Survey Team identified 76 businesses and non-profits with major impacts from this disaster and 217 with minor impacts, which directly impacts the amount of tax revenue available for affected communities to devote to recovery, making federal assistance all the more necessary. 

Additional information about the state’s storm response efforts is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.

Governor Signs Demmer Bill Providing Parity for Craft Distillers

Small craft distillers, like Whiskey Acres Distilling Company in DeKalb and Kennay Farms Distilling in Rochelle, are growing in popularity, but burdensome regulations have made it difficult for some craft distillers to keep their doors open. This year I sponsored and passed legislation that would ease licensing and exemption processes and help these business owners establish, grow and thrive.

HB 2675, signed into law as Public Act 101-0482, puts craft distillers on equal footing with craft brewers. It amends the Liquor Control Act and splits the existing craft distiller license into two classes dependent upon the volume of spirits manufactured each year. It also provides a process by which those who produce less than 5,000 gallons of spirits per year can apply for an exemption to self-distribute their product. The provisions of HB 2675 took effect immediately upon its signing.

Governor Signs Medicaid Reform Legislation to Expand Health Care Access, Eliminate Application Backlog and Increase Transparency

More than three million Illinoisans rely on Medicaid to meet their health care needs. A few weeks ago, I joined a group of House and Senate lawmakers as the Governor signed Medicaid reform legislation that will improve transparency, access, and the overall effectiveness of Illinois’ health care system.

SB 1321 is the product of a dedicated bipartisan and bicameral work group that listened to a wide range of concerns and suggestions. Together we worked to find solutions and make progress toward improving the Medicaid program. I was the Chief House Co-Sponsor of SB 1321.

Specifically, SB 1321 enables key state agencies, including the Department on Aging, Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Department of Human Services and Department of Innovation and Technology, to lead one of the most aggressive cross-agency efforts in Illinois history to expand access to health care for low-income Illinoisans, and eliminate a large application backlog. The new law also centralizes claims from providers to Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) in order to increase transparency and accountability.

Additionally, SB 1321 requires MCOs to make timely payments within 30 days and make expedited payments to health care providers serving large Medicaid populations, including long-term care facilities where more than 80 percent of residents receive Medicaid, safety-net hospitals and government-owned providers. The new law also mandates a full review of the Medicaid redetermination process to identify changes that will allow more patients to be renewed automatically and ensure patients are maintaining the highest continuum of care possible. 

New Law Broadens Availability of Mammogram Screenings
According to statistics from breastcancer.org, a leading non profit in the field breast cancer support, 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetimes, and this year it is estimated that almost 270,000 new cases will be diagnosed. Breast cancer also affects men, as almost 3,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2019.

SB 162, recently signed into law as Public Act 101-0580, mandates that insurance companies cover comprehensive ultrasound screenings when dense breast tissue impedes clear imaging through traditional mammogram technology. With ultrasound technology available, diagnoses can be made quicker, and if needed, treatment can begin sooner. The provisions of the new law take effect on January 1, 2020.

Demmer Provides Legislative Update for Dixon Chamber

It was a pleasure to meet with local business leaders last week when I presented a legislative update at a meeting of the Dixon Chamber of Commerce. I spoke about the “mixed bag” of bills that were considered during the spring 2019 legislative session, and explained that while there were times of extreme partisanship, there were also several opportunities for bipartisanship. I pointed to the minimum wage bill, which was passed and signed into law with zero Republican support. However, I also noted that bipartisan negotiations led to agreement on a full-year balanced budget, money set aside to pay down bills, key business reforms to make Illinois more competitive, and a capital bill that provides for significant investment in Illinois’ infrastructure. After a brief presentation, I took questions from audience members and encouraged the business leaders to utilize the resources my district office provides. I appreciated the invitation to share information and answer questions.

Governor Signs Prescription Drug Affordability Law
During the final week of bill signing action, legislation was also signed that provides those who take pharmaceutical drugs with relief at the cash register. HB 465 will give customers more options for cheaper drugs, prevent the denial of emergency medical treatment to expecting mothers, allow pharmacists to recommend less expensive drugs, create a state registration for Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) and hold those PBMs accountable. This legislation had wide, bipartisan support, and I was a strong supporter of it.

Property Tax Relief Task Force Holds First Hearing
The bipartisan Task Force, which first convened and organized itself on August 12, held its first hearing last week. The Task Force heard on Thursday, August 29 from the Department of Revenue (IDOR) on the current Illinois property tax system that levies taxes from 5,675,466 enumerated parcels of Illinois property that have an equalized assessed value (EAV) of more than $352 billion.

IDOR reported that from this $352 billion in assessed EAV, 6,047 separate taxing bodies try to extract more than $30.8 billion per year. The majority of this total Illinois extension goes to Illinois’ public school districts. Municipalities, special districts, counties, and tax increment financing (TIF) districts also take large shares of the total extension.

The Property Tax Relief Task Force has been asked to examine the root causes of high property taxes in communities across the state, and to look at other states’ legislative solutions to reduce property tax burdens in the short term and the long term. The group has been asked to generate two reports – an initial report within 90 days of convening, and a final report by December 31, 2019.