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Governor Signs Bipartisan Higher Education Bill
In a rare showing of bipartisanship in Springfield on April 22, the House and Senate approved SB 2059, which provided $600 million in emergency stopgap funding for Illinois’ colleges and universities, and for Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for students from lower income brackets. On Monday, April 25, Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill into law, making it possible for the Comptroller’s office to begin transferring lifeline funding to Illinois’ nine universities, 12 campuses, 39 community college districts and approximately 120,000 MAP Grant recipients.

The money provided by SB 2059 will help keep operations going and enable students to remain active in classroom learning. Full funding awaits continued work by the General Assembly to enact constitutional balanced budgets for FY16 and FY17. Illinois higher education has not received operational funding from the State since July 1, 2016, when FY16 began.

Constitutional Amendment would allow Illinois Voters to Abolish Position of Lieutenant Governor
Illinois has had a constitutional Office of the Lieutenant Governors since being admitted to statehood in 1818. For almost 200 years, most Illinois lieutenant governors have served quiet terms without succeeding to the office of Governor or performing other significant tasks. Seven U.S. states do not have a Lieutenant Governor.

I serve as a Chief Co-Sponsor for HJRCA 5, which authorizes the people of Illinois to vote in November 2016 on abolishing the office of Illinois Lieutenant Governor. If the amendment is approved, the elected Illinois Attorney General (who is the person next in line under existing law) would become the successor to the Governor who is first in line. The measure was approved by the House on Friday, April 22. The 95-10-0 bipartisan vote to approve HJRCA 5 sent the measure to the Illinois Senate for further consideration and debate.

Rep. Morrison Discusses Civics at Partners for our Communities Organization Event
Last week it was my pleasure to meet some local students when I discussed and answered questions about civics at a citizenship class hosted by the local Partners for our Communities (POC) in Palatine. POC is a network of civic, educational, government, religious, private business, charitable community organizations and institutions that work alongside a dedicated staff and a strong volunteer force to provide services to the residents of Palatine and the surrounding area.

End of Month sees Payless Payday for 118 Members of Illinois House
House members from both parties are paid, by law, at the end of every calendar month. Due to the State’s continued lack of a constitutional balanced budget, however, the Comptroller has determined that these payments to elected state leaders should be treated on a basis of equality with other budget-impacted State payments on an immediate basis. I support her decision 100%. The decision became effective during the end-of-April pay period. The end-of-April business day was Friday, April 29.

Elected official pay commitments, including pay for Comptroller Munger, for other statewide elected officials and for members of the Illinois House and Senate have been shifted to a wait-queue that will generate payments when monies are available. As with other providers of goods and services to the State, delay times are expected in the settlements of these commitments and claims. While the move nominally affects Governor Bruce Rauner, the State’s chief executive has announced that he is serving without pay.

Observers see the move as increasing internal pressure within the General Assembly to discuss budget issues seriously with the goal of generating new spending numbers before the legislature’s scheduled May adjournment. Comptroller Munger’s office is currently posting a backlog of official unpaid bills that exceeds $6.8 billion.

Governor Rauner Organizes Task Force against Health Care Fraud
The task force, created earlier in April 2016 by executive order, has been asked to look into possible fraud, waste, and abuse in state-administered health care programs. Illinois taxpayers pay $19 billion a year to administer and pass through payments on state-run health care programs. Most of this money is paid directly by state taxpayers to Illinois, and a large subset is paid through federal taxes paid by Illinoisans to Washington, D.C.-based programs in which both Illinois and the federal government collaborate and provide funds.

Rauner has asked the task force to review the best practices currently used by the private sector to examine and control soaring health care costs. Other states’ efforts to reduce Medicaid fraud and other forms of public sector health care abuse are also to be looked at. The task force will work with data managers skilled at “big data” analytics to uncover statistical patterns indicative of non-optimal health care billing and spending.

The task force has been asked to write a report that will:
  • Make recommendations for policy changes the State needs to consider 
  • Refer specific cases of wrongful reimbursements to authorities to seek recovery on behalf of Illinois taxpayers.
New Study Determines that Illinoisans Pay Highest Property Taxes in Nation
The study, published by CoreLogic, compares aggregated property tax extensions (the total amounts billed) with the value of the real property being taxed. According to CoreLogic, which the median property tax extension aggregate extension is 1.31% of the property being taxed, the median Illinois extension is 2.67% of value. This measurement scale makes Illinois the highest-property-tax state in the U.S., with New York second at 2.53% of value.

The CoreLogic data indicates that if an Illinois homeowner is occupying a house valued at $200,000, the homeowner will be paying a median annual property tax bill of $5,340. As always, individual homeowners’ experiences may vary. Different localities within Illinois will have different property tax rates; and within localities, different property owners may enjoy the effect of specific property tax relief measures. For example, senior citizen homeowners should be able to enjoy some relief from the Senior Citizens Homestead Property Tax Exemption, which automatically subtracts some of the value from the assessment number generated for an eligible senior citizen’s house before the tax bill is generated.

According to CoreLogic, neighboring states have lower property tax rates than Illinois. The California-based data aggregator generated median property tax burdens, calculated as a percentage of property value, of 1.95% in Wisconsin, 1.69% in Iowa, 1.26% in Missouri, and 0.88% in Indiana. CoreLogic’s data, published this week, agrees with previously public state-by-state surveys by firms such as WalletHub, which have also found Illinois to be one of the worst states in the nation in which to be taxed.

As always, please do not ever hesitate to call me or write to me about issues that are important to you. You may reach my Palatine District office at (847) 202-6584 or email me by going to www.repmorrison54.com and clicking on the “Contact” button.

State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) spoke on camera today about the busy week in Springfield and about legislation- good and bad- that was considered in the House of Representatives over the last several days. You may watch his video by clicking the image above.

Click on the image to watch and listen to State Representative Tom Morrison's latest update from Springfield.
By State Rep. Tom Morrison and State Rep. Mary Flowers
It may surprise many parents and students to learn that schools are now granting students access to restrooms and locker rooms based upon a subjective view of personal gender identity rather than an objective standard such as biological sex and anatomy.

Regarding school-sponsored trips, a genderspectrum.org model policy states that, “in most (emphasis ours) cases students will be assigned to share overnight accommodations with other students that share the student’s gender identity.” The school district shall not disclose this information to the parents of the other students. In other words, parents have no idea what the sleeping arrangement is going to be for their children.

Is it appropriate to allow the co-mingling of students of the opposite anatomical sex within school restrooms, locker rooms or hotel rooms on overnight field trips? Furthermore, when this occurs, why aren’t parents being informed?

At Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School District 211, a student—a biological male who identifies as female—was granted access to the girls' locker room after the federal Department of Education threatened legal action and financial penalties if the district did not comply. These unelected Washington bureaucrats have used their own novel interpretation of settled federal Title IX law to pressure other school districts, as well. They, along with a vocal minority of agenda-driven activist groups, are driving these policy changes.

We can all agree that all bullying is harmful and unacceptable, so a solution must be reached that does not trade the rights of one group for another. Many students justifiably feel their privacy would be compromised by having to change clothes beside students with opposite anatomy. Likewise, parents do not want their daughters to undress beside students with male anatomy or their sons to share a locker room with students with female anatomy.

We and our co-sponsors have introduced HB4474 in order to protect the interests of ALL children. HB4474 allows school boards the option of designating a private, single-occupancy facility for students who request a special accommodation while also ensuring schools maintain exclusively single-sex facilities. Our bill is in line with both federal law and the Illinois Human Rights Act, which allows for distinctly private spaces to be separated by biological sex. This bipartisan legislation is a win-win solution which will meet the needs of everyone involved.

Opponents claim that providing privacy stalls in de facto co-ed bathrooms and locker rooms is sufficient to protect student privacy. If this were true, aren’t those same privacy stalls sufficient to separate a biologically male student who identifies as female from other male students in the male facilities?

Also, it is important to realize that locker room privacy stalls still fail to protect student privacy because the majority of students change in the locker rooms’ open, common areas while a student or students of the opposite anatomical sex will walk past them to access a privacy stall.

Additionally, what about the safety of a female student who identifies as a male? Wouldn’t that student be safer in a single-occupancy room rather than a multi-use male facility?

Some other opponents of HB4474 point to civil rights abuses in American history, but comparisons to racial segregation are inappropriate.

Racial segregation was based on the absurd notion that races are substantively different. Providing separate facilities based on sex stems from the true belief that males and females are biologically, physiologically and anatomically different. Those differences are the basis for the desire for privacy in these types of public places. The purpose behind separating males and females has never been to exclude nor to maintain the superiority of one sex over another but merely to recognize the many differences between the sexes.

We cannot selectively pick winners and losers when it comes to privacy—especially when the ones affected by those decisions are vulnerable minors who need protection, including those who have been victims of sexual abuse.

This is an issue that requires sensitivity and fairness. We share the desire to do what is best for children. We believe our legislation is a common-sense solution and is the best option to protect the safety, modesty, and privacy of all children.
Record Number of Illinois Voters Participate in Primary Election
Illinoisans came out in large numbers last Tuesday to have their voices heard in the March 15 Primary Election. Early voting records were shattered across the state, as voters cast their ballots, and the Election Day numbers were equally as impressive. Thank you to all candidates who chose to put themselves out there and run for public office. It is not an easy task. Whether they won or lost on Tuesday, all candidates are to be commended for giving Illinois voters a choice at the ballot box.

Illinois’ Unpaid Bill Total Nears $9 Billion
The Ledger, a spreadsheet summary posted online by Comptroller Leslie Munger, now shows Illinois with almost $7.5 billion in unpaid bills. This includes not only the $3.68 billion in unpaid bills actually forwarded to the Comptroller for payment, but also an estimated $3.80 billion in past-due bills and invoices held at state agencies and not yet forwarded to the Comptroller. However, in testimony presented by the Comptroller to the Senate Appropriations I committee on Thursday, March 17, Munger described an additional $1.3 billion owed to vendors for statutory programs not covered by judicial process. Much of this additional debt is due to participants in state higher education and providers of social services.

The $7.5 billion in conventional bills represent state programs, such as Medicaid, that are seen as legally essential and which continue to operate automatically under conditions of current continuing appropriations, consent decrees, and court orders. Additional bills of more than $1 billion represent programs that are dependent upon appropriated funding. Unpaid promises by the State, such as the college-oriented Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) grant program, fall into this category. In many cases, providers of services under these programs, such as providers of social services and institutions of higher education, have continued to operate through the first three-quarters of FY16 in the hopes that appropriations measures will be passed at some point and signed into law.

When asked to add both categories of debt together, Comptroller Munger projected that the cumulative total budget deficit would top $10 billion by June 30, 2016.

Harper College Students Visit Springfield
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of visiting with some students from Palatine’s Harper College. The group was in Springfield learning about state government and talking with lawmakers about issues of importance, including the lack of a budget and the impact it is having on higher education. I had a very nice discussion with these bright students and I hope they enjoyed their time in Springfield.

Personnel & Pension Committee Hears Testimony about New Pension Reform Bill
With Illinois facing increasing challenges to fund existing pension commitments, the House’ Personnel & Pensions Committee is holding subject matter hearings into a new pension proposal that could reduce current costs and future unfunded pension liabilities borne by Illinois’ five state-managed pension systems. I am the Republican Spokesperson of this committee.

Because HB 4427 offers pension system participants a choice rather than a mandate, it appears to be constitutional. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Mark Batnick (R-Plainfield), would offer existing public-sector employees with vested pension status the option of a buyout of some or all of their future benefits. Employees who take a buyout would be given a one-time payout of funds, and would enjoy the opportunity to invest them for a payout that would match their future life plans.

Previous subject matter hearings for HB 4427 have been held in Springfield and Chicago, and this week on Wednesday another hearing will be held in Chicago. Because the hearing is subject matter only, no decisions will be made.

Rep. Morrison Attends Town Hall Meeting in Palatine
Recently I joined Palatine Trustee Scott Lammerand for a Town Hall Meeting he held in District 2. I spoke to an engaged audience, and was able to give an account of what is happening in Springfield with the budget impasse.

General Electric Announces Creation of New Jobs in Greater Chicagoland
One hundred tech workers will staff GE’s new Digital Solutions office in central Chicago, and 60 additional positions will be created at the existing GE digital healthcare office in northwest suburban Barrington. Up to 160 new Chicago-area jobs are expected to be created as a result of the pair of moves by the global business firm, which is undergoing a series of administrative changes as it moves its overall world headquarters from Connecticut to Boston.

General Electric has previously announced that it will move its overall healthcare headquarters from London to Chicago. The global business firm has many ties to Chicago, including its Chicago-based Transportation division; GE Transportation specializes in railroad locomotives and other transport solutions.

As Spring Driving Season Approaches, Gas Prices Soar in Illinois
The average price per gallon charged for motor fuel increased 18 cents during the week ended Monday, March 14. Statistics compiled by the motor fuel website GasBuddy.com indicated that during this period the price of gas rose from $1.88 per gallon to $2.06 per gallon. This marked the second highest increase for the week among the 50 states, with prices rising 19 cents per gallon in neighboring Missouri.

Illinois gas prices were 12 cents per gallon higher than the nationwide average of $1.94 per gallon. Gas prices tend to be higher than the national average in Illinois because of relatively high tax rates, particularly in the Chicago area. People who buy gas within Chicago city limits must pay separate slices of tax to the federal government, the State of Illinois, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Cook County, and the city of Chicago. The State of Illinois charges separate taxes upon motor fuel by the gallon (Road Fund excise tax) and by the dollar (General Funds sales tax). As recently as August 2012, gas cost an average of $4.31 per gallon in Chicago.

As State Fiscal Crisis Worsens, Procurement Reform could Save more than $670 Million
The savings from modifications to the Illinois Procurement Code, the law that governs how Illinois and its state universities are required to purchase goods and non-specialty services, would come from speeding up the process and creating a new class of pre-cleared bidders who could compete in future Requests for Proposals (RFPs) without time-consuming verifications.

After studying the operation of the existing Procurement Code, the Rauner Administration released the results of a preliminary study in February, which indicated that the enactment of a package of reforms could generate as much as $514 million in procurement savings to be enjoyed directly by the State of Illinois, with additional savings of $159 by state universities. Reforms advocated by the Governor include a preclearance process and the creation of a new position of state chief purchasing officer (CPO) in a personnel move that would mirror the organizational table of many large private-sector enterprises and firms. A key bill in this package is House Bill 4644.
Earlier this month Representative Tom Morrison spoke on camera about legislation that was debated on the House Floor in Springfield. MAP grant funding for low income Illinoisans was a topic a much discussion during the House members' final days prior to the spring break. You can listen to his comments by clicking the image above.
Today an attempt in the Illinois House to override Governor Rauner’s veto of SB 2043 failed in a 69-48-1 vote. Seventy-one votes were needed for a successful override. The bill was vetoed last month because it promised state funding for community colleges and MAP grants but did not include a revenue source to pay for them. If approved, $721 million in additional debt would have been added to the state’s stack of unpaid bills. After the vote, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) issued the following statement:

“Several Representatives said today that MAP grants are very important, but as one of my colleagues stated, “math is also important.” The math, as it relates to this bill, simply doesn’t add up. If this veto override had been successful, students who rely on MAP grants would have been given false hope, because the plain fact is that this bill promised grants but did not allocate money to fund them.”

“What we need is a real balanced budget with spending on one side and appropriations on the other. We also need to address the reasons why the costs of higher education are climbing so rapidly. In addition to the unfunded mandates we place on them, until very recently our universities and colleges have had little financial incentive to control their spending, so tuition and fee costs have been spiraling upward and out of control.”