Legislative News from Rep. Grant Wehrli

9/11 Memorial Events to be Held Throughout Illinois
We all remember where we were when we learned that terrorists, controlling hijacked planes, attacked our country and caused the death of nearly 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. This week, on Wednesday, September 11, we will pause to honor the lives lost on 9/11/2001 and show renewed appreciation of the firefighters, police officers, and other first responders who courageously served on that tragic day and in the weeks that followed.

The Exchange Club of Naperville will host a local 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony Wednesday evening. The event will begin at 5:30 with the Carillon Bells, and at 5:45 the Naperville Municipal Band will perform. The official 9/11 commemoration begins at 6:00. I hope you will come out and show your support at this local event or at another event that is convenient for you. A web-based list of events throughout Illinois can be found here.

First of Two September Town Hall Meetings Set for Tuesday, September 10
There was a great deal of legislation approved this year and some of it was quite controversial. The approval of recreational use marijuana, for example, continues to be an issue of great importance and interest to my constituents. If you have questions about this bill or other legislation passed this year in Springfield I’d like to invite you to join me for an open topics town hall meeting this week on Tuesday, September 10. The meeting will be held at the Naperville Municipal Building (council chambers), located at 400 South Eagle Street, and will take place from 7:00 PM until 8:30 PM. The meeting will feature a short legislative session update, followed by a question and answer session.

Tuesday’s meeting is one of two town hall meetings scheduled for September in the 41st District. On Thursday, September 26, Wehrli will host a similar meeting in Warrenville at the City Hall at 7:00 PM. For more information about these upcoming town hall meetings, please contact my office by phone at (630) 696-4160, or by visiting repwehrli.com.

Almost All Spring 2019 Bills Signed into Law

Of the 599 bills sent to the Governor by the House and Senate after passage in spring 2019 in Springfield, 591 bills were signed into law. Eight vetoes will be on the calendar in October and November when the two chambers reconvene in veto session. Seven vetoes are “total” vetoes, which means that three-fifths majorities of the House and Senate will be required to override the veto. Governor Pritzker also issued one “amendatory” veto, which initiates a process by which the General Assembly may scrutinize the Governor’s changes and accept them by simple majority. In addition to veto actions, the General Assembly may take other legislative actions during the fall Veto Session.  

Wehrli Signs On as Chief Co-Sponsor of New Ethylene Oxide Ban Option for Local Municipalities
On Friday, a DuPage County judge ruled that the Willowbrook Sterigenics plant can reopen if certain conditions are met. A few hours later House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, State Representative Deanne Mazzochi and I introduced new legislation that will give local municipalities the authority to ban the use of ethylene oxide in their communities. HB 3885 authorizes any municipality in the state of Illinois to implement a local ban of the use of ethylene oxide within its boundaries. If a local municipality chooses to adopt this authority, any sterilizing companies would be prohibited from using ethylene oxide.

Wehrli Bill that Streamlines Licensing Process for Illinois Social Workers Signed into Law

This year I’m working to address the critical shortage of licensed social workers in Illinois by closing the gap between when an individual receives their master’s degree and when they can sit for the licensing exam. Today, those seeking to become a licensed social worker in Illinois must finish their master’s degree before applying to sit for the licensing exam. Through  SB 1888, signed into law as Public Act 101-0568, students can sit for the examination during the final semester of their master’s program. This is a simple change that moves more qualified professionals through the employment pipeline quicker, so their skillset can be put to good use as soon as they possess the proper skillset and qualifications.

Through SB 1888, The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) will set rules that allow students to take the licensing exam during their final semester of college. The new rules take effect on January 1, 2020.

Current caseloads for Illinois social workers are well beyond what is considered appropriate and manageable, so taking steps to streamline the licensing process so we can put more social workers to work quicker is a step in the right direction. These professionals do a job that is critical importance to the safety and welfare of our state’s most vulnerable people, so we must do all we can to ensure proper staffing levels.

Still Time to Take My Legislative Survey!

My End-of-Session Report for 2019 includes a short constituent survey. I have already received several hundred completed surveys in the mail, and would encourage everyone to take a few moments to complete a survey and weigh in on key issues affecting our state. The survey is also available on line. I value your input and look forward to reading every response. Click here to get started. If you did not receive a paper copy of the report and would like one, please contact my office at (630) 696-4160.

Early Childhood Community Resource Fair a Huge Success

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of meeting scores of local families that attended the 11th Annual Early Childhood Resource Fair held at School District 203’s Ann Reid Early Childhood Center in Naperville. My legislative assistant and I had a booth at the event, which featured more than 60 organizations that provide services and resources for children from birth to age 5. The State of Illinois budget for Fiscal Year 2020 includes an additional $50 million towards early childhood education, and I appreciated the opportunity to talk with families about the State’s role in providing access to important early childhood programs.

Vaping Health Crisis Seen as Research and Reports Continue
Many users are starting to consume nicotine through e-cigarette “vaping” devices that load fingertip-sized cartridges. The devices vaporize the drug with other chemicals, letting people inhale nicotine vapor without smoking cigarettes. Millions of Americans, including patients with existing lung diseases and breathing conditions, are exposing their respiratory systems to the chemicals associated with vaping behavior. Some companies sell flavored vaping cartridges that are attractive to young people, leading to a surge in youth vaping. The Illinois General Assembly enacted legislation this spring raising the minimum age to buy e-cigarettes (and conventional tobacco products) from 18 to 21.

Numerous reports are coming in from around the United States, including Illinois, of health concerns and even deaths associated with vaping and e-cigarettes. Vaping devices and vaping technology can also be used to consume cannabis and other respiratory drugs. As vaping behavior grows, Illinois lawmakers are discussing taking possible further steps to regulate the industry and discourage youth e-cigarette use. Last week Michigan adopted administrative rules to ban the sale of flavored vaping cartridges in the Great Lakes State. I am in the process of drafting similar legislation for Illinois.

Governor Signs Bill Providing Parity for Craft Distillers

Small craft distillers are growing in popularity, but burdensome regulations have made it difficult for some craft distillers to keep their doors open. This year I was a Chief Co-Sponsor of legislation that eases licensing and exemption processes and helps 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.

Wehrli Hosts Successful Children’s Health & Safety Expo

Thanks to the many families that came out on August 24 for my annual Children’s Health & Safety Expo. Several hundred people attended the event, which featured a Traveling World of Reptiles Show, a Brookfield Zoo Show-and-Tell, a Touch a Truck exhibit, interactive safety presentations and more than 40 booths staffed by a variety of groups and organizations that assist children and families. This expo is always very well-attended, and families come back year after year not just for the information, but also for the fun, hands-on activities for children. Congratulations to Raylan, the winner of the bike giveaway at the event!

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. The Governor recently signed Medicaid reform legislation that will improve transparency, access, and the overall effectiveness of Illinois’ health care system. I was a proud co-sponsor of this bill.

SB 1321 is the product of a dedicated bipartisan and bicameral work group that listened to a wide range of concerns and suggestions. The bill 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.

Governor Signs Prescription Drug Affordability Law
During the final week of bill signing action, legislation I co-sponsored 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.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a ribbon cutting for the grand opening of the new location for Good Health Pharmacy in Naperville. It’s the second grand opening I have attended for this successful small business, as owners Olu and Yemi Ijose were pleased to share that they had outgrown their original space in Springbrook Square. They expressed their specific appreciation of my sponsorship of HB 465, and said the provisions of the bill will be extremely helpful to small businesses like theirs. It’s wonderful to see local small businesses thrive, and I appreciated the opportunity to help celebrate their grand opening and continued success.

Property Tax Relief Task Force Holds First Hearing
This year I’m serving on a bipartisan Property Tax Relief Task Force, and we recently held our first hearing. At this meeting, we heard 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.