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In response to Governor Bruce Rauner’s Wednesday Budget Address, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has issued the following statement:

”I applaud the Governor for presenting a balanced budget plan that protects essential government services without increasing taxes. While we have some difficult decisions ahead of us, this budget reduces spending, eliminates our structural deficit, and puts Illinois on a path toward financial stability.

“The specifics of his plan seemed harsh to some, but they should not have come as a surprise.  We knew for four years that there was going to be a revenue drop-off when the temporary income tax expired.  Rather than proactively preparing for this day, the irresponsible spending—on many wants instead of needs—continued.   Those bad decisions only intensify the tough days ahead as we rectify years and years of overspending.

“Our Governor has surrounded himself with a top notch team of experts who have proven records of success in both the public and private sectors. In the months ahead I look forward to seeing budgetary efficiencies worked into the mix so that the turnaround plan does not rely solely upon budget cuts.

“I appreciate that the Governor is addressing our pension crisis rather than waiting for the courts to rule on the issue. His proposal appears to meet constitutional muster by seeking to preserve benefits earned to date and alter them only for future work.  I look forward to working with him on this critical area of reform so that government workers and taxpayers as a whole have greater certainty about the future in Illinois.”


State of the State Address Takes Aim at Laws that Swell Taxes, Government Spending
Last week, on Wednesday, February 4, Governor Bruce Rauner presented his first State of the State address. Governor Rauner’s bold agenda, which was outlined in a 40-minute speech to a joint session of the IL House and Senate, calls for comprehensive reforms to the “iron triangle” of public-sector career executives, government labor unions, and elected officials who are friendly to both groups.  The Chicago Tribune covered the story.

Governor Rauner looked repeatedly at Illinois tax and labor law as a factor in the Prairie State’s poor economic performance.  States that neighbor Illinois have enacted reforms to their states’ tax laws and labor laws.  Reforms enacted in Indiana and Michigan include offering a choice to workers on whether or not to join unions at their workplaces.  Rauner pointed out the comprehensively better economic performance enjoyed by these states, and presented an example of a typical firm – Modern Forge, formerly of Blue Island – that has joined many of its fellow small businesses in moving to Indiana.  “We must avoid slipping further behind,” he warned, calling for dramatic changes in the laws of Illinois to match its neighbors. 

The governor called for additional support for Illinois elementary, secondary, and higher education.  He pledged to reform the education bureaucracy and to prioritize early education programs, elementary and secondary education in geographically challenged areas of the State, and to return Illinois support to historic levels for credential-oriented programs within community colleges. 

Rauner called for major changes in the face of elected government in Springfield.  He strongly requested approval by the General Assembly, for submission to the people of Illinois, of constitutional amendments to limit the terms of Illinois elected officials and merge the offices of Illinois Comptroller and Treasurer

Rauner’s office has posted a video of his speech online, and welcomes social-media discussion of the points made in it using the hashtag #ILTurnaround. Following his speech I was asked to give my reaction on camera. You can watch the video of my comments here

Growing Measles Outbreak Hits Palatine Day Care Center
Last week five infants at a Palatine children’s learning center tested positive for measles.  The Cook County Department of Public Health provided details of the outbreak here.  The positive test results followed earlier reports of another patient, possibly an adult, testing positive for measles on January 27.  The earlier report was also located in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

Measles can be a fatal illness if it is accompanied by complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or brain inflammation (encephalitis).  Approximately one of every 1,000 cases of juvenile measles progresses to encephalitis.  Parents continue to be strongly encouraged to have their young children vaccinated with MMR vaccine at age 12 months for measles, mumps and rubella. 

Because measles is an extremely contagious viral disease, persons who suspect they have measles, and parents of persons who are suspected to have measles, should know whether or not they have been vaccinated.  If they have not yet been vaccinated, public health experts urge them not to present themselves at places where young children are being cared for or where health care is provided.  They should describe their symptoms to a health care provider by telephone, wireless, or Internet, and follow advice and instructions.  Symptoms of measles include fever, red and sore eyes, runny nose, cough, and a visually characteristic rash.  Images of the rash can be seen by researching the disease online.  

Bright Spot in Illinois Economy
A record-breaking number of tourists and visitors came to Chicago in 2014, with the number of visits breaking 50 million for the first time.  Most of the visitors were Americans visiting for pleasure, leisure, and culture (37.3 million), with 11.3 million U.S. arrivals for business travel and 1.5 million visits to Chicago from abroad.  Chicago tourism has now topped its pre-Great Recession peak of 46 million annual visitors per year.   

Announcing a new “Chicago Epic” campaign, the city called for Chicago to target 55 million visits by 2020.  From 2010 through 2014, an increase of 10 million in annual tourist visits to Chicago has generated approximately 9,400 new jobs.  State tax-based general funds are not used for Chicago convention and tourism promotion, which is funded by supplemental taxes on rentals of local hotel and motel rooms, restaurant meals, taxicab rides, and similar services often used by Chicago tourists and visitors.        

House Committee Lineup Takes Shape
The 48 standing committees will scrutinize bills presented to the Illinois House in 2015-16.  Some of these committees will have highly specialized responsibilities and may meet only one to five times over the course of this two-year period, whereas others will meet weekly whenever the Illinois House is in session.  Each committee has a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, and a spokesperson.  The chair and vice-chair are named by the Speaker of the majority party, and the spokesperson is named by House Minority Leader Jim Durkin. To read about my specific committee assignments, click here.

Legislative Session in Full Swing
We are entering the time of year when legislators spend most of their time in Springfield. However, my Palatine office will remain open and staffed with people who can assist you with your needs. Please do not hesitate to call my District Office at (847) 202-6584. You may also reach me through the contact form on my web site, at www.repmorrison54.com.  If you are planning a visit to Springfield, please let my Springfield office know so they can assist you with arrangements. You may reach my Springfield office at (217) 782-8026. 
Following Governor Rauner's State of the State Address yesterday, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) spoke on camera about his support of the Governor's agenda for economic recovery.

In response to Governor Bruce Rauner’s State of the State Address on Wednesday, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has issued the following statement:

“I thought Governor Rauner did a nice job of presenting a bold agenda that will set Illinois on a path toward prosperity. I was particularly pleased with his overall theme of empowerment, where Illinoisans can take control of their own futures.

“Property tax relief is a topic that is very important to me, so I applaud the Governor for recognizing that our high property taxes are a direct result of local and state governments being unwilling to control their spending. He said providing property tax relief is one of his top priorities, and I look forward to helping him promote this agenda through legislation in the General Assembly.

“I was particularly pleased to hear about the Governor’s plan for improving education options for Illinois families. He has embraced the notion that parents deserve the right to choose the best educational setting that will help their individual children thrive. I support many elements of the Governor’s Student and Career Success Package, and look forward to seeing the details as we move through this legislative session.”
A strong advocate for pension reform in Illinois, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has been selected to serve as the Republican Spokesman for the House Personnel & Pensions Committee.

“Real pension reform is an absolute must for our state – for those in the system and the taxpayers who subsidize it,” said Morrison. “I am looking forward to being our caucus’ leading voice as future pension bills move through this committee over the next two years.”

In addition to the Personnel & Pensions Committee, Morrison will also be the Republican Spokesman for the Appropriations- General Services Committee and the new Special Committee on Renewable Energy & Sustainability.  The General Services Committee oversees and approves the administrative budgets for each state agency, the constitutional officers, and the Illinois Supreme Court.  The Renewable Energy & Sustainability Committee is a special committee, which means it meets less often than standing committees.

Morrison will also be serving as a member of the Environment and State Government Administration Committees.
The Illinois General Assembly approved several bills in 2014 that will add new regulations to businesses. While some of the bills that were approved and signed into law have merit, most place additional mandates onto the backs of business owners and further define Illinois as a "business-unfriendly" state. New laws that will affect businesses as of January 1 include:

PA 98-0776 (SB 1098) Corporate Liability post dissolution
Allows for a corporation that has been dissolved to continue to be liable up to five years after the dissolution.  Any legitimate claim against the corporation could be from any period before, during, or after dissolution up to five years.  The law reverses a decision made by the Illinois Supreme Court.

PA 98-0774 (HB 5701) ‘Ban the Box’ bill
Prohibits employers from seeking information regarding a potential employee’s criminal history until after an invitation to interview or a conditional offer of employment has been extended.  Intended to allow job seekers with criminal history to be considered on their merits and experience rather than being dismissed out of hand for an offense

PA 98-0862 (HB 5622) Payroll cards
This law establishes requirements and regulations for the use of payroll cards by employers - stored value cards offered by some companies to their employees as an alternative to payroll checks or direct deposit. Payroll cards are similar to debit cards and can be used to make purchases or withdraw cash at ATMs. Regulations include prohibiting the employer from forcing an employee to accept a payroll card in lieu of other payment, and ensuring the employer provides a complete written explanation of the terms and conditions of the payroll card account including any fees that may be involved.

PA 98-0911 (HB 4790) Hair braiding licensure standards
Provides that an individual licensed as a hair braider teacher may practice hair braiding without being licensed as a hair braider.  The purpose of this change is to bring the same standards to barber oversight as is done with cosmetology.

PA 98-1037 (HB 4157) Employee status for interns
Adopts the federal definition of “intern” to the Illinois Human Rights Act, giving employee status to unpaid interns at Illinois businesses for the purpose of sexual harassment claims.  An “intern” is considered an employee if:   the employer & intern agree to no wages; employer is not committed to hiring the person; and the closely supervised work provides experience for the benefit of the person performing the work, but does not displace regular employees.

PA 98-1119 (SB 3405) Protecting small businesses from patent trolls
Any person sending demand letters about patent infringement must have an actual legal claim that is valid. Offenders will be subject to sanctions for engaging in a deceptive business practice.

PA 98-1051 (HB 5563)   Equal pay investigations
Allows Departments of Labor (DOL) and Human Rights (DHR) to combine Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination investigations and investigate an equal pay violation when a sex discrimination violation is also alleged, so that employers do not have to undergo TWO investigations.

PA 98-1050 (HB 8) Workplace pregnancy accommodations 
Provides that it is a civil rights violation for employers: to not to make reasonable accommodations for employees with conditions commonly related to childbirth or pregnancy; to require a job applicant or employee to accept accommodations; to require an employee to take leave for a medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy; or to retaliate against a person who has requested, attempted to request, used, or attempted to use a reasonable accommodation.

PA 98-0838 (SB 2999) Licensing of roofing contractors
An applicant for licensure must submit to IDFPR evidence that they have an unemployment insurance employer account number issued by IDES, and that there is not a delinquency in payment under the Unemployment Insurance Act.  All persons performing roofing services under the Act shall be licensed as roofing contractors, except for persons who are deemed to be employees of a licensed roofing contractor.

PA 98-0874 (SB 1103) Occupational Safety and Health Act
This new Act, like the two Acts it replaces, applies only to public employers (the federal OSHA Act governs occupational health and safety in the private sector). One new change in the combined Act allows the Attorney General to bring an action in a circuit court to enforce the collection of any civil penalty assessed under the Act.

PA 98-1096 (SB 1778) Resale Dealers Act
The act requires that a resale dealer maintain a standard record book that has been approved by local law enforcement. It provides that the resale dealer shall record a detailed account of each transaction in the record book and establishes additional requirements concerning record books. Further provides that every resale dealer shall require that ID be shown by each person selling any goods, articles, or other things to the resale dealer and establishes additional requirements concerning acceptable forms of ID. It establishes criminal offenses that a person may be charged with for violating the Act, and amends the Pawnbroker Regulation Act to repeal a provision concerning requirements for unregistered buyers conducting business at temporary buying locations. Defines resale dealer.
Of the 200+ new laws that will take effect on Thursday of this week, several will affect drivers and the transportation industry. The new laws include:

PA 98-1074 (HB 5326) Public transportation registration fees
There is an annual $8 registration fee for all PACE vehicles.  This law changes the annual fee to a one-time $8 fee.

PA 98-1103 (SB 2802) Proof of online license plate renewal
Allows a printed receipt of online license plate renewal to serve as proof of renewal until the sticker is received in the mail.

PA 98-0726 (HB 4422) Secretary of State omnibus bill
The omnibus bill for the Secretary of State makes the following changes: under the Illinois Identification Card Act, expands the definition of “disability” to include “oncological impairments” within Class 1A and Class 2A disabilities. It also amended the Illinois Vehicle Code concerning the Secretary of State’s discretionary authority to suspend or revoke the driver’s license or permit of military personnel. It removes the “J48 restriction” from statute. This restriction limits a driver to operating only a school bus and no other type of commercial motor vehicle.

PA 98-0870 (SB 2583) “Sign and drive” in Illinois
This new law institutes “sign and drive” in Illinois by prohibiting the confiscation of a motorist’s driver’s license as bail when stopped and cited for a minor (no jail time) traffic offense.  Since 9/11, the need for appropriate, state-issued photo identification has become a necessity in order to travel, obtain health-care, renting vehicles, etc. The driver’s license is still the standard, accepted form of photo identification.

PA 98-0746 (HB 5895) Nighttime BiOptic driving permits
Allows persons using non-traditional visual aid instruments, such as BiOptics, to apply for a special, restricted driver’s training permit. Currently, no process exists for drivers who wear bioptic lenses to practice driving prior to taking the nighttime road test. The permit would allow the applicant to drive from sunset to 10:00 p.m. for six months as long as the applicant is accompanied by a person who has a valid driver’s license with no nighttime driving restrictions. BiOptic glasses are vision enhanced lenses with extreme magnification.

PA 98-0747 (HB 5897) BiOptic driving license renewal 
Allows people who utilize BiOptics (vision enhanced lenses with extreme magnification) for nighttime driving to take a behind-the-wheel road renewal test every 4 years instead of annually. Maintains provisions in current law that require all BiOptic lens wearers to submit a Vision Specialist Report each year. Specifies that the Secretary of State may cancel a special restricted license for nighttime driving if the licensee violates any provision of the Illinois Vehicle Code during nighttime hours or is involved in a motor vehicle accident during nighttime hours for which the license holder is at fault.

PA 98-0737 (HB 5468) Window tinting certificate renewal
Permits a person who has been issued medical certificates allowing tinted windows on their vehicle to renew their medical certificate every 4 years rather than annually.

PA 98-0734 (HB 4743) County procedures for release of impounded vehicles
Counties, in addition to municipalities, may adopt administrative procedures for the release of impounded vehicles. This legislation is intended to be a source of income for counties on impounded vehicles that were used in commission of specified offenses and for the imposition of a reasonable administrative fee related to the county’s administrative and processing costs associate with the removal, impoundment, storage, and release of the vehicle.

PA 98-0884 (HB 3685) Waivers for licenses for certain bus drivers
Drivers of buses for religious organizations, senior citizen transportation services and for-profit ridesharing arrangement services are required to hold a valid drivers’ license for three years prior to the date of their application. This law allows an applicant to remain eligible if their license lapsed for less than 30 days during that time, and to apply for a waiver from the Secretary of State if the lapse was longer.

PA 98-0971 (SB 3402) Vehicular Dealer Plates & Repair
Provides that dealer plates issued by another state shall exempt a vehicle from the registration requirements of the Illinois Vehicle Code only while it is being transported to a repair facility within this State as evidenced by a work order or contract with the repair facility, and is displayed to a law enforcement officer upon request.

PA 98-0847 (SB 3290) Noise exemptions at off-road riding facilities
In a Section concerning off-road riding facilities, exempts owners or operators from civil and criminal liability arising out of or as a consequence of noise or sound emissions resulting from the use (instead of "normal use") of the off-road riding facility.

PA 98-0728 (HB 4687) Fees for shipping radioactive material 
For truck shipments of less than 100 miles in Illinois that consist entirely of cobalt-60 or other medical isotopes or both, the $2,500 per truck fee shall be reduced to $1,500 for the first truck and $750 for each additional truck in the same shipment.