Legislative Update: April 12, 2019

Rep. Wehrli’s “Double-Dipping” Bill Clears IL House

This week I passed legislation that would provide taxpayers with some much-needed relief by addressing the practice of “double-dipping” of pension benefits by fire chiefs. HB 3522, which received unanimous, bipartisan support, specifically applies to retired fire chiefs who re-enter service with a different department while collecting a full pension from their first position.

Fire chiefs are important public servants who deserve to earn fair benefits, but Illinoisans simply cannot afford to pay for two defined benefit pensions for the same individual. The defined contribution plan outlined in HB 3522 allows for a retirement benefit to be earned, but not on the shoulders of taxpayers.

Through HB 3522, fire chiefs who begin their service after January 1 of 2020 may only continue to collect a pension benefit while being employed as a fire chief if they participate in a defined contribution plan rather than a defined benefit plan. Most pensions are based on a defined benefit, or guaranteed-return benefit plan. By placing them in a defined contribution plan, their benefit is similar to a 401-k plan. Disability insurance benefits are unchanged in this proposal.

With the 115-0 House vote on Thursday, HB 3522 now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Wehrli Bill to Prevent Accidental Hot Water Scaldings Receives Unanimous House Approval

In an effort to eliminate injuries caused by accidental scaldings in Illinois residences, legislation that would require temperature valves on water heaters and tanks received unanimous support in the Illinois House earlier this week. I am the Chief Co-Sponsor of the bill.

The legislation was brought forward on behalf of a family from Naperville after an infant died from injuries sustained after an accidental scalding from bathwater. It was a horrific tragedy that could have been prevented if the provisions of this bill had been in place. By requiring temperature limits on water temperatures that flow through residential sinks, tubs and showers, we are taking steps to ensure no family ever has to endure what this Naperville family has had to go through.

Specifically HB 3427 would create the Water Heater Safety Valve Act, and require manufacturers or suppliers of water heaters and tanks used in residences to include a temperature valve that prevents water hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit from coming into contact with people. The bill also provides for fines and civil penalties for those who knowingly violate the Act. With its unanimous approval in the House, the bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

On Friday, I passed my third bill of the week; one that would allow the parents of home-schooled students under the age of 16 to obtain an employment certificate for their child. It is not uncommon for children who are not yet 16 years old to hold part time jobs, and current law requires that a school administrator to sign off on the certificate. The need for the legislation was brought to my attention by a Warrenville parent and her home-schooled daughter at my recent mobile office hours event held in Warrenville. The constituents explained how home-schooled children do not have a method for obtaining the required employment certificate. It’s a great example of how an idea becomes a bill, and highlights the importance of talking with your legislator when you have ideas to improve processes in our state. HB 1918 received unanimous approval.

House Democrats Vote to Increase Unfunded Pension Liability for Firefighters Pension Fund
On the same day that Governor Pritzker’s latest attempt to raise taxes on Illinois families and business was filed as an amendment to SJRCA01 in the Senate, Democrats in the House voted and approved a bill that would shortchange the Chicago Firefighters Pension System by more than half-a-billion dollars. All 72 Democrats in the House chamber on Tuesday voted in favor of increasing the unfunded liability for the pensions earned by Chicago firefighters. It’s just one example of the insanity going on in Springfield this year. Click here to view a short video I made shortly after the bill’s passage.

Environmental Town Hall Set for Saturday, April 13
As controversial bills make their way to the floor of the House, I want to provide the residents of the 41st District with several opportunities to share opinions about the issues that are important to them.

Tomorrow, on Saturday, April 13, I will bring a panel of environmental experts together for an Environmental Town Hall Meeting that will be held from 10:00 AM until noon on the North Central College campus in the Wentz Science Center’s Stevenson Hall. We will discuss a variety of environmental issues and pending bills. The panel of experts includes officials from the Citizens Utility Board, Elevate Energy, the Sierra Club, the Metropolitan Planning Council, the City of Naperville, and others. By taking bold steps to protect our environment, our children and grandchildren can enjoy a healthier future. If you would like to attend the Environmental Town Hall on April 13, RSVPs are appreciated and can be made at ilenviro.org/Naperville.

On Wednesday, April 24, I am hosting an open topic Town Hall Meeting from 7:00-8:30 PM at the Naperville Municipal Building, 400 South Eagle Street in Naperville. I will provide a brief Springfield update, but the majority of the meeting will be dedicated to answering questions and seeking input on legislative issues. I truly value your input, and it is a tremendous help as I work on your behalf in Springfield. I hope you’ll attend one or both of these meetings.

Pritzker Unveils Constitutional Amendment Language; House Republicans Renew Opposition to Graduated Tax

House and Senate Democrats increased taxes in 2011 and again in 2017, yet Illinois’ debt is higher than ever. Earlier this week, Governor JB Pritzker released the language he would like to see in a Constitutional Amendment to remove the flat tax guarantee from the Illinois Constitution. His recommended language is now filed as Senate Amendment #1 to SJRCA01. Pritzker and Democrat lawmakers have proposed no spending controls or reforms to how Illinois does business. Instead, they are once again reverting to their intellectually lazy solution of increasing taxes on Illinois families.

The language, which has been fast-tracked in the Senate, is exactly what we feared- it provides no protections for middle-income families and businesses, and is essentially a blank check for Democrats. The language includes no provision to prevent future rate increases. In fact, when asked if he’d support protecting middle-income families, Governor Prizker said, “…this is something that future legislatures and governors will make about what the rates should be…the future is unknown, and so you want to make sure they have the options that are available in this constitution.”

The Governor’s plan puts families and businesses at risk, and the House Republican Caucus remains united in our opposition to the plan.

I recently joined Representatives Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) and Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore) for a Capitol press conference where we renewed the House Republican Caucus’ opposition to the graduated income tax.

The tax rates proposed by the Pritzker administration would result in a $3.4 billion tax hike on Illinois families and businesses by changing the current flat rate of 4.95% to a graduated tax rate including six tax brackets. Many families and small businesses would pay a higher income tax rate of 7.75%, with Illinois’ highest earners paying a 7.95% tax rate. As many small business owners file their tax returns as individuals, Pritzker’s tax hike would hit Illinois small businesses especially hard.

Click here to watch the full press conference.

Naperville Officials Visit Springfield to Discuss Value of Municipal Electric Utilities
On Tuesday I had an opportunity to talk with officials from the Naperville Electric Department about the success they are having with the operation of municipal-owned electricity for Naperville residents. Because Naperville operates its own municipal electric utility, property owners and renters enjoy electricity costs that are lower than Com-Ed, and experience outages that are significantly lower than state averages. It was a pleasure to meet with these dedicated city employees, who work hard to deliver top-quality electrical services at a great cost.

Rep. Wehrli Welcomes Edward-Elmhurst Health to Capitol

I recently had the pleasure of welcoming representatives from Edward-Elmhurst Health of Naperville to Springfield for the Illinois Hospital Association’s Quality Advocacy Showcase at the Capitol. Edward-Elmhurst Hospital is the largest employer in the 41st Legislative House District, and I was happy to meet with hospital representatives to discuss infection prevention and other healthcare initiatives.

As part of the showcase, Edward-Elmhurst Health highlighted a recent initiative that addresses hospital-onset infections. Their display outlined how a $20,000 investment in staff training and education led to more than $189,000 in savings from early diagnosis and treatment, and preventative measures to stop the spread of the common hospital-related infection.

This infection prevention initiative is just one example of the fine work being done by Edward-Elmhurst Health in our region. We are very fortunate to have such a well-respected and successful healthcare provider in DuPage County.

During our visit, we also spoke about legislation that would add millions in new costs to hospitals through new staffing mandates. Edward Hospital does an excellent job of providing world-class health care to its patients while being extremely conscious of costs. HB 2604 was not called in the House prior to the bill deadline for House Bills.

Wehrli Hosts Pages for a Day in Springfield
I always enjoy when local families visit Springfield. This week I was able to host two local high school students for pages for a day at the Capitol. On Wednesday, Vincent Adamo, a junior from Naperville Central High School, visited Springfield. He joined me on the floor of the House as a Page for the Day. Vincent got to see the House in action as we considered several pieces of legislation. Then on Thursday, Fatima Ala of Naperville joined me on the House floor as additional bills were debated. Fatima is a junior at the College Preparatory School of America in Lombard. If your family has plans to visit the Capitol while the legislature is in session, please let my Springfield secretary know so I can say hello. And if your child would like to participate in the Page for a Day program, my secretary can help make those arrangements. My Springfield office can be reached at (217) 782-6507.

Protections for DCFS and Adult Protective Service Workers Pass Unanimously
After an almost two year-long journey, legislation sponsored by Rep. Tony McCombie to extend protections to DCFS and Adult Protective Services workers in honor of slain-DCFS worker Pam Knight, received the unanimous approval of the Illinois House of Representatives. House Bill 1482 adds protections to DCFS and Adult Protective Service employees from assault, the same protections applied to teachers, police/fire, and other emergency responders who protect those in harm’s way.

Attacks against state workers who protect our most vulnerable are unfortunately common – with more than a dozen attacks taking place since 2013. This legislation essentially closes a loophole in the law that omitted DCFS and Department of Aging workers from those harsher penalties that are applied when other public servants are attacked. HB 1482 will now move to the Illinois State Senate for consideration where Senator Brian Stewart will sponsor the legislation.

Legislation to Remove Statute of Limitations on Prosecuting Sexual Assault Advances to State Senate This year I am a proud Chief Co-Sponsor of legislation that would remove the statute of limitations on prosecuting sexual assault offenses and thereby give law enforcement and prosecutors the ability to conduct an investigation and bring charges against a suspect without a time restriction. The legislation, HB 2135, recently earned unanimous bipartisan support in a vote of 113-0.

Currently, the statute of limitations on prosecuting sexual assault is within 10 years of the commission of the offense for victims who are over the age of 18 at the time of the sexual assault, if the victim reported the offense to law enforcement within 3 years of the offense.

At the Capitol and present for the passage of HB 2135 were a group of supporters from Mutual Ground in Aurora. Representative Wheeler recognized and welcomed them during his remarks. HB 2135 is now being considered in the State Senate.