Legislative Update: February 12, 2019

Wehrli 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.

Rep. Wehrli 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 pointed out how the new rules subjugate all power to one individual, the Speaker. 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.

Mobile Office Hours Coming to the 41st District

The local office for the 41st District is located in downtown Naperville, and I am aware that the location might not be convenient for the residents I serve who reside in the Warrenville or southern Naperville area. Starting in March, a member of my staff will travel to other areas of the 41st District on a regular schedule so that our office’s resources can be brought to people in a location that is convenient for them. I will attend as many of these events as I can. Our first mobile office hours, which I plan to attend, is scheduled for Friday, March 8, from 10:00 AM until noon at the Warrenville Public Library, 28W751 Stafford Place in Warrenville. If you would like to stop by for a brief conversation about the issues and priorities that are important to you, I’d love to talk with you. If you are having issues with a state agency, my staff can provide assistance. No appointment is needed for these events. Future mobile office hours events will be posted to my web site at repwehrli.com.

Naperville High Schools Named to Best of the Best List
We have excellent schools here in the 41st District, and Niche.com, which specializes in a variety of different types of ranking, has listed three Naperville high schools in the top 25 of their list of 2019 Best Schools in Illinois. The rankings include both public and private schools and include elementary, middle and high schools. Congratulations to Neuqua Valley High School (#18), Naperville Central High School (#19) and Naperville North High School (#24) for achieving this prestigious honor. Several middle and elementary schools from our area also made the list. Click here to view the full list and click here to read about the methodology used for ranking.

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.

Rep. Wehrli Named Republican Spokesperson for Key House 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 be the leading Republican voice on the influential Labor & Commerce Committee. The bills that flow through this reviewing body have a direct impact on Illinois’ business community and the workforce. In fact this week we will likely consider SB1, a bill approved by the Senate last week to hike Illinois’ minimum wage to $15 per hour. I will also be serving as the ranking Republican on the Cities & Villages Committee. As a former ten-year member of the Naperville City Council, I have a heightened interest in legislation that affects local government operations. I was a member of this committee in the 100th General Assembly and consider it a privilege to be elevated to the position as Spokesperson for the 101st.

Along with the two Republican Spokesperson assignments, I will also be serving on the powerful House Executive Committee. The most pivotal bills that come to the floor of the House are vetted through the Executive Committee and it’s an honor to have a hand in the preliminary consideration of those initiatives. My other committee assignments for the 101st GA include Public Utilities Committee and on the Appropriations-General Services and Appropriations- Capital Committee. I’m particularly pleased to serve on the Appropriations- Capital Committee because there is the talk of a capital bill this year to fund infrastructure projects throughout the state. We certainly have transportation infrastructure needs in DuPage County and in the 41st District, and I’ll be looking for their inclusion in any bill that is considered in our 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 the 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 the 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 public-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.