News from Rep. Grant Wehrli

It’s July 1, and many taxes in Illinois go up today. Gas, cigarettes, online purchases and vehicle registrations are just a few examples of what will now cost more in Illinois. I did not support any of these increases. Why? Because year after year Illinois fails to look at the expense side of the budget. 

Let me provide a glimpse into the budget process in Springfield. In a budget hearing I suggested some cuts to programs and departments. The response I received from the committee chair? “You’re making cuts to Democrat programs. Let’s find equal cuts to Republican programs.” My response? “OK! If existing programs aren’t working they should be cut. New spend should be results driven, not politically driven.”

We now all pay more for everyday items because there is zero accountability in state government. Unless Springfield politicians are held accountable, nothing in our state will change. Except taxes. Those will continue to go up.

Rep. Wehrli Turns Focus to Local Constituent Needs During Summer and Fall

With the legislature adjourned until the fall veto session in October and November, I am spending these next few months at home in the 41st District tending to the needs of the constituents I serve in DuPage and Will Counties. I have been meeting with elected officials to discuss how legislation approved this year will affect them locally and have also been meeting with constituents and providing end-of-session updates to business leaders and other groups.

I recently put together a “Day in the Life” piece that explains how lawmakers spend their days when the legislature is not in session in Springfield. Our staff photographer followed me around on June 19 and captured a full day of legislative activity in the 41st District. Click here to view that photo collection.

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 am a Chief Co-Sponsor of 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.

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.

Three Additional 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 budget that will govern spending from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, the following legislation signed by Governor JB Pritzker earlier this year 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. I was a “yes” vote on this bill.
  • 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. I supported this bill.
  • SB 1814: As part of this year’s budget implementation bill (BIMP), 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. While I support this particular increase, I voted against the BIMP bill because, like the budget, we were not given adequate time to review and understand all that was included in the bill.
  • 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. I voted against the increase in the gas tax.

Motor Fuel Tax Revenue Protected in “Lockbox”

If there is good news to be associated with the increase in the gas tax, it is that the funds are protected. They can only be used for transportation improvements. 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.

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 a proud Chief Co-Sponsor of 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.

Governor Signs Legislation Providing the Strictest Restrictions on Ethylene Oxide Emissions in Nation
On June 21, Governor JB Pritzker signed into law a bill that was filed in response to the cancer cluster identified near the Willowbrook Sterigenics facility. I was the Chief Co-Sponsor of SB 1852. This new law, known as the Matt Haller Act, reduces allowable ethylene oxide emissions at sterilization facilities to rates that ensure air quality levels are 99.9% chemical-free. It also sets limits for how close sterilization facilities can be from schools and parks, and requires notice be provided to the residents, schools, hospitals and local government in the event that elevated ethylene oxide emission levels are detected at any facility. Moving forward, sterilization plants not in compliance with the new standards will be shut down immediately.

The new law is named after Matt Haller, a 45-year-old Willowbrook resident who passed away earlier this year from stage four stomach cancer. Haller lived one mile from the Sterigenics plant and was an outspoken proponent for the closure of the plant.

Wehrli Honors Local American Legion Post with House Resolution

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of presenting members of the Naperville American Legion Post 43 with an honorary House Resolution in recognition of the Post’s 100th Anniversary. The history of this organization dates back to 1919, when a group of World War I veterans came together to create a local organization to serve veterans and their families. When their charter was issued that same year, the Naperville American Legion Post 43 opened its doors with 126 initial members. Today the Post serves more than 600 members and is one of the largest and most active posts in the state.

In addition to providing Color and Honor Guard services for local civic events and burial honors for veterans, the men and women from the Naperville Post 43 promote youth citizenship through Boys and Girls State programs, sponsorship of a local scouting troop, and through scholarships. A staple in the annual Naperville Memorial Day parade, this group exemplifies community involvement through service to others. Click here to read House Resolution 377.

Save the Date! Wehrli Children’s Health & Safety Expo Set for August 24

Now that summer weather has finally arrived, I hope you are able to spend time outdoors enjoying all the amenities available to residents living in the 41st District. Please mark you calendars now for my annual Children’s Health & Safety Expo, which will be held this year on Saturday, August 24 from 9:30 AM until 12:30 PM at the Frontier Sports Complex, 3380 Cedar Glade Drive in Naperville. We’ll have all kinds of interactive booths for children and families, and the popular “touch-a-truck” and “traveling reptile show” will be back to provide additional entertainment. I hope to see you at the expo!