Objective and Fair Standard Needed for School Bathroom and Locker Room Use
Palatine-based Township High School District 211 became the center of a national civil rights debate recently when a student with male anatomy who identifies as female demanded full, unrestricted access to the girls’ locker room at school. The school’s response was troublesome and shined a light on what appears to be a patchwork and non-transparent approach to Illinois schools responding to transgender issues.

Illinois needs to have a clear standard in place so that our schools can set policy that aligns with existing federal laws. Through Title IX at the federal level, we already have existing case law that allows the separation of bathrooms and locker rooms based on sex. In the case of District 211, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) attempted to reinterpret Title IX when representatives sent a threatening letter to District 211 officials claiming their federal funding could be in jeopardy if they did not address what they called a violation of the student’s civil rights. A letter penned by the Department of Education’s OCR does not change the rule of law and does not in any way supersede the provision that already allows separate bathrooms based on an individual’s anatomy.

Over the last few weeks I have met with hundreds of people who are concerned about privacy issues for all public school students. I am in the process of finalizing legislation that creates a statewide standard that is both objective and fair so that every school district in Illinois can be confident in setting policy that respects the privacy of all students.

Morrison Presents Pension Information at IASB Conference
In late November it was my honor to host a session at the Illinois Association of School Boards conference in Chicago. Titled “Pensions: New Day, New Solutions,” I helped lead a discussion about Illinois’ pension crisis and what possible solutions exist. I was joined on the panel by Illinois Senator Daniel Biss (D-Skokie), teachers, TRS Director of Outreach Rich Frankenfeld and COGFA Director Dan Long. About 250 school board members and school administrators from across the state attended the session.

Morrison: “Pension Reform Should Begin with Legislators and Judges”
In case you missed it, I recently submitted an editorial to the Daily Herald where I suggest that pension reform in Illinois needs to start at the top, with lawmakers and judges. Here is the text of that editorial:

Jake Griffin’s column again highlights serious flaws in Illinois’ notoriously broken pension system. While the judicial and legislative pension funds represent less than 2% of the state’s overall pension obligations, reform should begin there.

It’s legislators and governors who ultimately approved pension benefit promises along with annual expenditures that included increases in education, transportation, social programs, and other budgetary needs and wants. Lawmakers’ past short-sightedness and/or self-interest created a system that kept most public employees happy in the short-term but accumulated a mountain of promises to be paid later by taxpayers. We all face major challenges as a result.

This is why pension reform must begin at the top if there’s any hope of fixing our problems long-term. I have spoken with many public employees, and they are much more open to objectively discussing fair solutions to the pension dilemma once they discover there are dozens of reform-minded General Assembly members who voluntarily opted-out of the pension plan in the past 5 years. Once that dialogue opens, it’s much easier to discuss the numerous harmful consequences of the staggeringly deep pension debt. Current education expenditures, transportation, public safety needs, the social safety net, as well as other budgetary priorities, are being continually squeezed out. Municipal governments are under similar pressures to maintain staffing levels of police, fire, and other staff with increasing annual pension payments.

Current local and state elected officials must lead by example and disallow the accumulation of any more pension credits for themselves or for future office holders.

There is understandably great public distrust for elected officials, but sacrificial and visionary action will open the door to the bold pension reforms so desperately needed to rescue our current pension systems from collapse and enable us to pay for government services we need today and in the future.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
As we end 2015 and prepare to usher in 2016, I hope you are all able to spend quality time these next few weeks with family, friends and other loved ones. While this has indeed been a difficult year for the State of Illinois, we all have a lot for which we can be truly grateful. From my family to yours, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a bright and prosperous new year!
Legislative Leaders Continue to Meet with Governor
Governor Bruce Rauner has met three times in as many weeks with the four legislative leaders to discuss the budget impasse, and while there is still significant disagreement on key issues, the five have expressed some mild optimism that some progress is being made.

Governor Rauner, House Speaker Mike Madigan, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno met three weeks ago in Springfield and then again on December 8 in the Governor’s Chicago office at the James R. Thompson Center. A third meeting took place today. While the meetings produced no significant breakthroughs, all agreed that they will continue to meet with hopes that a budget agreement can be reached early in the new year.

At the center of the impasse is a fundamental disagreement between Governor Rauner, who would like to implement structural reforms for local and state governments and for our business communities before discussing any increase in taxes, and the Speaker, who would like to close the budget funding gap with a tax increase right away, and defer talks of reforms until a later date. I stand with Governor Rauner and believe Illinois cannot continue with the status quo approach of overspending with no regard for what the state can actually afford. I am pleased that the five leaders have returned to the negotiation table and continue to hope for a budget resolution that is fair to everyone.

Motor Fuel Taxes, 9-1-1 and other Funding will Flow to Municipalities and Agencies Soon
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives approved legislation that will allow Motor Fuel Tax receipts and funding for 9-1-1 service to flow to municipalities and townships. The language, which was presented as an amendment to SB 2039, also included funding for lottery winners and for programs that serve veterans and battered women, for low income energy assistance programs, and for mental health services for vulnerable citizens. The final version of the bill was approved by the Senate on December 7, and signed by the Governor on December 8. The House almost unanimously approved many of the provisions included in the bill in November, but Speaker Madigan used his House rules to block it from moving to the Senate at that time. While I would have preferred to see the funding released to our local governments sooner, I am pleased to know that municipalities, townships and valuable agencies will be receiving their funds soon.

Unemployment Insurance Reforms Receive Bipartisan House Support
In a showing of bipartisanship, members of the House also gave final approval this month to sweeping reforms to the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act. The reforms, agreed to jointly by the Governor, the business community, and labor organizations, represent a significant step forward to strengthen the backbone of our economy, innovators and entrepreneurs. HB 1285 received unanimous support by the 110 legislators in attendance on December 2. Specifically, HB 1285 prevents a $470 million tax increase on employers by eliminating a scheduled increase in employer contributions that would have taken effect in 2016. The legislation also eliminates the Social Security Offset to provide greater security to elderly and disabled workers, and strengthens the misconduct provisions to ensure greater protections to employers.

Morrison Reminds Citizens to Sign Up For Email Renewal Notices
In October, Secretary of State Jesse White announced that his office was suspending the mailing out of vehicle registration renewal reminders to the public due to the lack of a state budget. By using this link you can register for email reminder notices that will provide an alert when your vehicle registration sticker is about to expire. Click here to view an FAQ about to this issue.
Governor Rauner to Chair Public Meeting with Legislative Leaders on November 18
As Illinois enters its fifth month without an approved budget in place, an announcement was made last week that the Governor and the four legislative leaders will return to the negotiation table for a meeting on November 18. At the meeting, the group is expected to examine the delayed FY16 budget process. Although the FY16 fiscal year began on July 1, 2015, a constitutional balanced budget has not been enacted by the Illinois House and Senate. The State has continued to operate under consent decrees, court orders, continuing appropriations, and school appropriations, but this has created many operational problems. Recipients of State services, and providers of goods and services to the State, have been affected by the lack of a legal budget document.

Spokespersons for all four legislative leaders, including House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, expressed positive interest in the meeting. The gathering was requested by a consortium of nonpartisan advocacy groups. Sponsors of the request included the Better Government Association, the League of Women Voters, and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

Chicago City Council Approves Largest Property Tax Hike in City History as Part of FY16 Budget
The new budget includes $755 million in property tax, other tax, and fee increases. The City Council voted on Mayor Emanuel’s budget and revenue measures on Wednesday, October 28. Although many aldermen expressed dismay at the tax and fee hikes, the final outcome of the vote was not in doubt. The Council vote was 35-15 in favor of the tax-increase package.

Concerns were expressed that even the significant taxes approved this week would not be enough to see the city and its troubled school system through the 2015-16 school year and calendar 2016 budget cycle. The debt rating of Chicago Public Schools has been reduced to junk-bond status, and entities related to the city’s government continue to rely on $800 million in additional financial aid and fiscal relief measures from the equally-troubled state government in Springfield.

Rep. Morrison Visits Fremd High School as “Principal for a Day”
On Friday I had an opportunity to step into the shoes of school principals and experience a day in the life of a top school administrator at Palatine’s Fremd High School. This was my fourth year participating in the program and I enjoy visiting local schools and talking with the students and staff. At Fremd, I met with the principal and his department heads and fellow administrators. I also spoke to a government class, social studies classes, and I did a ride along with driver's education students. I also spent a period in the teacher's lounge and discussed issues with staff.
The “Principal for a Day” program is a statewide initiative to provide state and federal elected officials with an opportunity to observe, interact, and serve as an administrator in schools within their legislative districts. Tomorrow I will be visiting Palatine’s Sanborn Elementary School.

September 2015 Unemployment Rate Declines to 5.4%; Few New Jobs Created Statewide
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) reported this month that the statewide jobless percentage for September was 5.4%, down 0.2% from the August 2015 total of 5.6%. However, this drop in the jobless rate was not caused by net new hiring. Illinois seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment actually dropped by 6,900 jobs on a month-to-month basis in September, with sector weaknesses continuing in manufacturing, trade, transportation, and utilities. Strong sectors included education services, health services, and government.

Illinois unemployment rates remain higher than rates in neighboring states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, seasonally adjusted jobless rates for September 2015 were 4.5% in Indiana, 3.6% in Iowa, 5.0% in Kentucky, 5.3% in Missouri, and 4.3% in Wisconsin. In addition, these states (unlike Illinois) were producing net new jobs. September 2015 unemployment was lower than the statewide average in greater Chicago (4.9%) and remained at above-6.0% recession levels in the three historically manufacturing-oriented cities of Danville (6.4%), Decatur (6.4%), and Rockford (6.2%).

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to be built south of Soldier Field
The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, a $700-million museum and endowment spearheaded by filmmaker George Lucas, will specialize in narrative art and the art of visual storytelling. The Lucas Collection, which is expected to be housed in the new Chicago museum, contains pieces by N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell and other well-known painters and illustrators, as well as rights to intellectual property connected with Lucasfilm Ltd. Moving images, digital images, and movie memorabilia, including images from Hollywood, are expected to be featured. The new museum will be built on landfill property reclaimed from Lake Michigan to build the Century of Progress world’s fair in 1933-34. In more recent years, the space has been used as a surface parking lot for Soldier Field and McCormick Place.

Hurdles faced by the new museum included the need to win planning permission from the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago. Illinois granted permission to construct the new museum with the enactment of HB 373 (P.A. 99-3) in May, and the Chicago City Council approved a rezoning designation for the museum on Wednesday, October 28. The City Council action was seen as one of the final goals that developers of the 300,000-square-foot museum needed to meet before construction can begin.

Illinois’ State Employees Retirement System (SERS) Asks to Withdraw $225 Million
The withdrawals, which will be completed on December 10, will cover retiree benefits to be paid in November and December of this year. SERS believes this is the largest cash withdrawal it has ever made. Pension checks to existing beneficiaries are expected to go out on schedule.

The withdrawal was made necessary by the inability of the State of Illinois to meet its statutory obligation to SERS, and to parallel State-managed pension funds that cover the retirement needs of education professionals, for the payments of money in FY16 from general funds. Payments by the State to the pension funds are one of the areas where, in the absence of specific appropriations authority, the money cannot flow. In other areas of the State’s FY16 budget, money is flowing as a result of a cobbled-together combination of continuing appropriations, school appropriations, consent decrees, and court orders. The withdrawal of money from SERS’s deposited investments is expected to further deplete its funds and add to its long-term unfunded liability.
Use the link above to watch Rep. Morrison's video about the budget impasse, and how 90% of the budget is flowing through court orders and consent decrees.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that his office will immediately suspend mailing out vehicle registration renewal reminders to the public due to the lack of a state budget. Those who want to continue receiving a reminder must sign up to receive an electronic notice through the Secretary of State’s web site www.cyberdriveillinois.com. A direct link to sign up for an email alert for vehicle sticker renewals can be found on the home page of that site.

When making the announcement, White noted that suspending this service will save approximately $450,000 per month. I applaud Secretary White for identifying this opportunity for $5.4 million per year in savings and hope that the decision to no longer mail out these notices becomes a permanent change.

I would encourage all residents to sign up for the free email notification regarding vehicle registration renewal notices. The email will include a pin number needed to renew stickers on-line. If you choose not to avail yourself to this email notification system, you will need to be mindful of the renewal date for renewing your vehicle stickers, and renew them in person at a Secretary of State office.
Hundreds Attend Recycling Event in Arlington Heights
Last week hundreds of area residents brought their old, shreddable documents, outdated electronics, old prescriptions and other recyclable items to a large community recycling event hosted by Senator Matt Murphy, Representative David Harris, and me. The recycling event was held at Recreation Park in Arlington Heights, and by the end of the three-hour event we had filled a large shredding truck and collected thousands of pounds of other recyclables. Thanks to everyone who helped make this event a huge success!

Comptroller Munger: Early Intervention Payments will be Made
Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger announced Wednesday that her office is setting up accounts and will immediately begin making payments to Early Intervention providers as soon as it receives vouchers from the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Munger learned from her Nonprofit Advisory Council last week that Early Intervention services were "slipping through the cracks" of consent decrees requiring payments during the budget impasse, and she contacted DHS officials to discuss what payment options were available. After looking more closely at several active consent decrees, DHS and the Comptroller agreed that Early Intervention services were covered and they immediately began setting up the processes for making payments to providers.

Early Intervention providers, who work on development strategies with disabled infants and toddlers, are the latest group in a growing list of organizations to be penalized by the ramifications of the budget impasse, now in its third month. Munger announced last week that the current $6.2 billion bill backlog is expected to grow to $8.5 billion by the end of December if the impasse continues.

"It is time for members of the General Assembly to sit down with the Governor to find common ground and pass a balanced budget so we can fund our critical priorities," Munger said.

Morrison Speaks to Hoffman Estates Chamber
On Friday I had the pleasure of speaking to about 50 members of the Hoffman Estates Chamber of Commerce. Along with State Representative Michelle Mussman, we updated the group of business leaders on topics ranging from the budget impasse, to tax policy, the Rauner Turnaround Plan, and the business and economic climate. Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod moderated the successful event, which was held at Alexian Brothers Women and Children’s Hospital.

Other States Besides Illinois have also not Passed a Working Budget for Current Fiscal Year
States operating as of Monday, September 14, without a twelve-month budget include Alabama, Illinois, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Large, urbanized states such as Illinois and Pennsylvania are proving to be especially vulnerable to budget pressures, especially when the Governor’s office and the state legislature are in separate hands.

In both Illinois and Pennsylvania, Republicans have proposed significant reductions in State spending trajectories and the so-called “structural deficit,” and their proposals have been rejected by Democrats. Long-term spending pressures, especially in urbanized states, tend to be driven by Medicaid health care costs, pay and benefits for public-sector workers, and the costs of taking care of a chronologically older and slower-growing population demographic.

Morrison Visits Senior Art Fair in Palatine
I always enjoy spending time with seniors from the 54th District, and on Friday I had an opportunity to attend a traveling Art Fair at the Greencastle of Palatine, a senior assisted living facility. The quality of the art was very impressive and I look forward to visiting with the wonderful people from Greencastle again in the future.

Illinois Unemployment Rate Drops to 5.6%
The jobless percentage for August 2015 was down 0.2% from the July 2015 report of 5.8%. The decrease in the unemployment rate was not, however, accompanied by new job creation. Total nonfarm Illinois jobs remained flat at 5.92 million. The August jobless numbers were reported on Thursday, September 17.

Continued declines in the number of Illinoisans engaged in the production of tangible goods – mining, construction, and manufacturing - was matched by the continued creation of new jobs in financial activities and educational and health services. The number of Illinoisans employed in tangible-goods sectors declined by 4,200 from July to August 2015, and the number of Illinoisans employed in financial/educational/health care professional-service sectors increased by 5,000. These trends have been in place for some time.

Illinois unemployment remained significantly higher than the nationwide figure of 5.1%. In addition, many states adjacent to Illinois are reporting lower unemployment rates than the Prairie State. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 2015 unemployment rates were 4.6% in Indiana, 4.5% in Wisconsin, and 3.7% in Iowa.

While the 5.6% number is encouraging, the Chicago Tribune recently reported that while the unemployment rate dropped according to how the numbers are calculated, the actual number of working Illinoisans overall has dropped too. This is because unemployment rate numbers are calculated using a formula that only considers those out of work and looking for a job for two years. After those two years, they fall off the radar screen and are no longer considered in unemployment rates. House Republicans continue to call for enactment of measures to improve Illinois’ climate as a place to do business, invent and distribute useful goods and services, and create jobs.

800 Motorola Jobs to Move within Chicago Area
The positions, associated with management-level activities over the provider of first-responder personal communications devices and solutions, will move from Schaumburg to Chicago’s Near West Side. Motorola Solutions stated their intent to retain 1,600 existing positions in the northwest suburbs, with facilities in Schaumburg and Elgin. The announcement was made on Tuesday, September 15.

Serious work has been done since 2001, by Motorola Solutions and other firms, towards the goal of creating a seamless web of secure personal and data communications between first responders in 9-1-1 and other rapid-response situations. Motorola Solutions and its corporate predecessors have been involved in handheld communications ever since their days of making primitive “walkie-talkie” devices for Army Signal Corps use in World War II combat units, including on D-Day. The firm has expanded its offerings to cover handheld communications in a wide variety of secure commercial/industrial settings, such as among personnel on a spread-out warehouse floor.
Hundreds of people attended a recycling event last weekend sponsored by Senator Matt Murphy, and State Representatives David Harris and Tom Morrison. During the three-hour event, residents dropped off enough old documents to fill a large shredding truck. A significant amount of electronics and old prescription medicines were also collected for safe and environmentally appropriate disposal.

Join Senator Matt Murphy, Representative David Harris and me on September 12 for a free recycling event in Arlington Heights. We will accept all kinds of recyclables, included old papers for shredding, electronics and non-liquid prescriptions. We will be at Recreation Park, 500 E. Miner Street in Arlington Heights, from 9:00 until noon. We hope to see you there.

Today in Chicago, a joint meeting of the Appropriations-General Services and Appropriations-Human Services committees was held to discuss SB2042, a measure that would allow nearly $5 billion in federal funds to flow to Illinois agencies that provide critical human services, child services, public health services and student assistance during the budget impasse. The bill would not allocate any State dollars. The bill, which passed unanimously out of the Senate on August 4, immediately moved to the House for consideration.

As Minority Spokesperson for the House Appropriations-General Services Committee, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) urged his committee colleagues during the 3 1/2-hour meeting to advance and approve the bill as it passed out of the Senate with no amendments.

"We have an agreed-upon bill that passed out of the Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support," said Morrison. "It is the minority party's position that we should approve the original bill as it came to us from the Senate and perhaps consider the other agencies that would like to be added in a separate piece of legislation."

An amendment that would add additional agencies and also include up to $600 million in State General Revenue Fund money is expected to be presented later today.
I would like to invite you to attend one of the four upcoming public meetings about the new runways and noise concerns around O’Hare Airport. You may have read about this issue in the news lately, or you may have noticed a change in the aircraft noise level in your neighborhood.

While this is not directly a state issue, I think it’s important for constituents in our district to be aware of it and to make their voices heard to the FAA, if they so desire.

If you are interested in voicing your support or opposition, these meetings will provide you with a way to do so. You will also have the opportunity to speak directly with aviation officials and get direct answers to all of your questions and concerns about future runway plans.

The workshops will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the following locations:
  • Monday, August 10: White Eagle Banquets, 6839 North Milwaukee Ave., Niles
  • Tuesday, August 11: Taft High School, 6530 West Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago
  • Wednesday, August 12: Monty’s Elegant Banquets, 703 South York Rd., Bensenville
  • Thursday, August 13: Belvedere Events and Banquets, 1170 West Devon Ave., Elk Grove Village
If you are unable to make it to a workshop but still want to voice your opinion, the FAA is also accepting written comments. You can send them to

Ms. Amy Hanson

Federal Aviation Administration

2300 East Devon Ave.

Des Plaines, IL 60018

You can also fax them to 847-294-7046 or email them to omre-eval@faa.gov. They must be postmarked no later than midnight August 26, 2015.

If you would like to view a copy of the FAA’s environmental impact study, you can find it here.
This week State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine), published a video where he outlines the reason for the budget impasse, and why Governor Rauner's plan will help Illinois' economy and create jobs.
A bill sponsored by State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) that will increase the frequency of actuarial reviews of the State’s five public pension systems was signed into law today by Governor Bruce Rauner.

HB422, now known as Public Act 99-0232, amends the Teachers’ Retirement System, State Universities’ Retirement System, State Employees’ Retirement System, Judges’ Retirement System and the General Assembly Retirement System by requiring that the actuary of each system conduct an investigation of the system every three years rather than five years as was previously written in the statutes. Each review will examine the mortality, retirement, disability, separation, interest, and salary rate assumptions used by the system for accuracy. The bill was approved unanimously in the House in March and unanimously in the Senate in May.

“A more frequent actuarial study ensures we are making the right payments to stay on track with our obligations, especially since we now have new Tier II employees in our pension systems,” said Morrison. “I was pleased to see that my bill was approved by every lawmaker in the House and Senate, and am also glad to know that Governor Rauner shares my feelings that we need to work with the most accurate financial data possible when it comes to our pension payments.”

The new law takes effect immediately. To hear more from Rep. Morrison about this new law, click here.
In May I voted against a Democrat-sponsored bill that would guarantee automatic cost of living adjustments (COLA) for members of the General Assembly and state-wide office holders. Unfortunately, in spite of unanimous opposition by House Republicans, SB1354 was approved by Democrats in the House and Senate. In FY16, this law was scheduled to grant pay hikes to lawmakers for $1,356 to $1,905, in addition to their existing salaries and stipends.

On Wednesday, July 1, Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has declined to accept a salary for his service as Governor, used his amendatory veto power to strike out the automatic COLA increase for elected State officials and lawmakers. The veto also freezes the lawmakers’ “per diem” daily expense money and travel mileage. The Governor’s action on SB1354 will be effective through June 30, 2016, unless overridden by the General Assembly.

The Governor’s veto message reads in part: “A balanced budget requires shared sacrifice. My Administration has reduced State personnel costs among agencies under my jurisdiction by $4 million during the first four full months (February through May) of this year, compared to the same period last year.

“I recommend that Senate Bill 1354 be changed to eliminate raises for legislators, elected officers of the Executive Branch, and agency directors and other highly compensated State officials, and to freeze the per diem amount and mileage reimbursement rate. Budget implementation bills must give us the tools to implement a balanced and realistic budget, and this change is an important step in closing our budget deficit. A similar provision has been enacted for each of the past six fiscal years.”
Session May 31 Deadline Passes with No Budget Agreement
The May 31 session adjournment date came and went on Sunday with no consensus on a 2016 budget. A Democrat spending package that was nearly $4 billion out of balance was approved earlier in the week, even though Governor Bruce Rauner has said emphatically that he will not look at new revenue sources until Democrats pass some of his fiscal and business reform initiatives.

At the start of the session day on Sunday, Speaker Mike Madigan announced that the House will be in “continuous session” throughout the summer. Members of the House were told to be back in Springfield this week on Thursday, June 4 and that members could be called back to Springfield throughout the summer with as little as 48 hours’ notice. The Speaker also said that the Representatives would not be receiving mileage reimbursement or per diem pay for the summer session days.

House, Senate Democrats Pass Unbalanced State Budget
Ignoring their constitutional responsibility to enact a balanced budget, the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate rammed through spending bills in the final days of May that they readily admitted they could not pay for, while at the same time walking away from the reform negotiation groups put together by Governor Rauner.

Illinois is estimated to bring in $32 billion next year, and the Democrats proposed budget would spend over $36 billion. The proposed spending is 12% higher than projected revenue and would push the state’s backlog of bills to over $10 billion, equaling 30% of our total revenue. The Democrats budget gives false hope to those who rely on state services and is an outright lie to schools, service providers and the state’s most vulnerable.

With locked-in increases intended to cover higher costs for Medicaid expenses, pension contributions, and other mandated and constitutional responsibilities, the House Democrats’ FY16 budget calls for spending more than $36 billion. House Republican members rejected the unconstitutional budget; calling upon the majority to change course and come back to the negotiating table so that a responsible, bipartisan budget with structural reforms can be agreed to. On party-line votes, the Democrats’ spending bills were approved by the Illinois House and Senate.

Rauner Administration Initiates Budget Management Steps in Preparation of Madigan-Cullerton Budget
In the final days of May, House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and their allies in the General Assembly pushed through a FY16 budget that is close to $4 billion out of balance.

Think about that. The FY15 budget was between $1.4 billion and $1.5 billion out of balance, and that shortfall created a mid-year funding crisis for important state services, like court reporters, prison guards, and key human and social services for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. When he took office on January 12, 2015, Governor Rauner inherited that unbalanced budget and he worked diligently with House and Senate Republicans to eliminate the deficit without raising taxes. Because of this action, Illinois is projected to end FY15 on June 30th with a balanced year-end budget.

With the upcoming Madigan-Cullerton budget deficit, which is more than double that of last year, a mid-year solution is not a possibility at this time. The Rauner administration announced yesterday that they will begin taking the necessary steps to manage state spending. Unfortunately, the Democrats refused to even consider reforms that would save the state money, so the Administration’s budget management options are limited due to the crisis.

While additional measures are still being finalized, budget management steps announced yesterday include:

Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO)
Effective Immediately
  • Immediately suspend of all future incentive offers to companies for business attraction and retention, including EDGE Tax Credits, Large Business Attraction Grants, Employer Training Investment Program Incentive Grants and Prime Sites Grants.
  • Immediately defer all application approvals for film tax credits and High Impact Business designations. 
  • All commitments previously made in any of these programs will be honored.
Action Initiated
  • Prepare and provide notice for the July 1, 2015 suspension of the State Low Income Home energy Assistance Program (SLIHEAP).
  • The federal portion of the program, funded at about $170 million, will continue.
Department of Transportation (IDOT)
Effective Immediately 
  • The Illiana Expressway will not move forward at this time. As a result, IDOT will remove the project from its current multi-year plan. It is the determination of IDOT that the project costs exceed currently available resources. The Department will begin the process of suspending all existing project contracts and procurements.
Action Initiated
  • Beginning July 1, 2015, IDOT will “ground” all state plane passenger service. Planes will be maintained and will be available for emergency purposes only.
Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)
Action Initiated
  • Begin the process of identifying one or two juvenile correctional facilities for closure.
    • The juvenile justice system has a surplus of capacity.
    • Capacity currently includes approximately 1,200 beds with 700 beds occupied.
Department of Corrections (DOC)
Action Initiated
  • Begin the process of closing the Hardin County Work Camp.
    • Approximately 180 inmates will be moved.
    • Approximately 60 Work Camp staff will be affected.
Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS)
Action Initiated
  • Implement an audit review of nursing home reimbursements to ensure payments comply with the recently implemented new rate structure.
  • Recover overpayments to nursing homes and implement financial penalties for improper billings.
Illinois State Police
Action Initiated
  • Immediately freeze all vehicle purchases.
Department on Aging
Action Initiated
  • File emergency rules to enact means testing to Aging’s Community Care Program (no income limit currently exists).
  • Increase the Determination of Need (DON) Score required to obtain services through the Department’s Community Care Program.
Department of Human Services (DHS)
Action Initiated
  • DHS will pursue cost control strategies through emergency rules for the Childcare Program.
    • Increase co-pays for parents using the program.
    • Freeze intake and create waiting lists.
  • DHS will also begin background checks for relatives providing child care. Background checks are currently required for child care licensed centers, group homes and non-relatives who provide care.
Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Action Initiated
  • The Department will not award Open Space Land Acquisition Development Grants in FY16.
  • The Department will begin the process to suspend operations and close the five state museums to visitors. The state will continue to maintain and secure the museums to protect the artifacts and exhibits.
This list is disturbing but represents a necessary step which will allow State Government to remain operational in the event that the budget impasse is not resolved very soon. I will continue to keep you up to date on this very important issue as any additional decisions are made.
It was nice to see Palatine Village Manager Reid Ottesen in Springfield this week.

House Republicans have worked for years to provide Illinoisans with much-needed property tax relief, and in most instances those bills have been blocked from advancing to the House floor. In response to the House Democrats’ effort Friday to use the issue of property tax relief in their latest round of political theatre, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has issued the following statement:

“Throughout my tenure in the House, I have been a vocal advocate for the property taxpayers in the 54th legislative district. I have spoken with elected officials and administrators from every level of local government and shared my opinion that they need to control costs so that additional tax burdens are not passed on to home and business owners. So to see the majority party treat the serious issue of property tax relief as a game was very disappointing.”

“I am a Chief Co-Sponsor of a comprehensive piece of legislation that would provide taxpayers with real tax relief. HB136 would freeze tax rates during times of declining property values and utilize a three-year average metric for determining when the freeze would be lifted. This is a fair solution, yet when Democrats had an opportunity today to release that bill for consideration and debate, they blocked it.”

“I always encourage my constituents to get to know their elected officials so they can let them know how increases in tax rates affect them personally. This is especially true for elementary, high school and community college districts, whose taxes comprise the majority of peoples’ tax bills. I will encourage them to continue doing this, because today’s actions by the majority party in Springfield made it very clear that they are not sincere about providing tax relief.”

At a time when legislators should be working in a bipartisan manner to create the FY16 budget, House Democrats have been making a mockery of the legislative process. Rather than allowing the budget working groups to complete their work and send appropriation bills through the committee process for proper vetting, Speaker Madigan has instead decided to engage in a process meant to divide, not unite the House of Representatives.

Last week House Democrats short-circuited the budget process by bringing the Human Services budget directly to the House floor with little notice and no committee deliberations. They brought the multi-billion dollar spending bill to the floor before a revenue number was determined and before spending priorities were identified by the Appropriations-Human Services Committee. After insisting the bill be brought to the floor, Democrats voted unanimously against it. Because the action was not genuine, House Republicans voted “Present.”

Immediately after that vote, House Democrats filed 15 additional amendments, choosing various State programs and running funding amendments one at a time. With no general revenue number set and a refusal to view the specific funding areas as part of a larger budget package, Republicans again voted “Present” on the amendments.

Today the games continued as House Democrats brought additional human service amendments to the floor for votes. They continued to cherry-pick select programs and ignore the lack of a general revenue number, so again, House Republicans voted “Present.”

I take my role as a State Representative very seriously, and when I come to Springfield I arrive ready to engage in serious discussions on matters of importance. But when those on the other side of aisle refuse to respect our rules and procedures, they are doing a great disservice to the people of Illinois. As long as the majority party continues to engage in unprofessional and counterproductive activities such as those that have unfolded on the House floor during the last two weeks, House Republicans will continue to vote “Present.”

Click here to hear Rep. Morrison's recent interview about the issue.
On Friday, May 8, just hours after the IL Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that the General Assembly's 2013 Pension Reform Bill is unconstitutional, State Representative Tom Morrison sat down with Chicago Tonight's Eddie Arruza to discuss the ruling and what is next for the State of Illinois. You can watch the video here. Rep. Morrison's segment begins at just after the seven-minute mark of the broadcast.

In response to today’s Illinois Supreme Court rejection of Illinois’ 2013 pension reform law on grounds that it is unconstitutional, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has issued the following statement:

“Now that our state’s highest court has agreed with a Sangamon County judge’s decision that the pension law is unconstitutional, we must renew our efforts to address the pension crisis. The daunting $111 billion unfunded pension obligation is siphoning money away from key budget areas of education, public safety, transportation and services for our vulnerable citizens. Our budgets will suffer until this crisis is properly addressed.”

“Pensions are consuming too much of the state’s revenues and until we get to the root of the issue, which is the unyielding pension language in the Illinois Constitution, we will continue to be saddled with too much debt. The justices pointed to specific language in the Constitution which states that benefits cannot be ‘diminished or impaired’. Until we amend that language, efforts to reform the pension systems will likely fail.”
In June of this year, the first naval vessel since 1897 which carries the State of Illinois' name will launch from a harbor in Connecticut. On April 29, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) had an opportunity to visit with some of the crew members.

Crew members and members of the nuclear sub marine's commissioning committee were at the Illinois Capitol to showcase an eight-foot replica of the Virginia Class nuclear submarine and to talk with visitors. Additional information about the USS Illinois can be found at www.ussillinois.org.
In response to the decision today by Governor Bruce Rauner to restore the $26 million in cuts that had previously been announced for Illinois human service agencies, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has issued the following statement:

“The General Assembly received some good news regarding the Illinois economy yesterday, and I am pleased to see that our Governor is restoring funding to our human service agencies for the balance of FY15. The Department of Human Services and the Department of Public Health were promised a certain amount of funding for this budget year, and upon learning that our revenue numbers are better than anticipated, restoring funding for human service programs was the responsible thing to do.”

“While these programs will now enjoy full funding for the remaining weeks of FY15, difficult decisions are still ahead of us as we try to close a $6 billion deficit that is projected for FY16. Correcting more than a decade of overspending is not going to be easy, and the notion of shared sacrifice will still be an underlying element of our budget discussions.”
On April 30, supporters of Home Schooling were in Springfield to talk with legislators. I'm shown here with the Dimoulis family. They are a part of the Christian Home Educators group.

On April 28th, supporters of Illinois parks came to Springfield for Park District Lobby Day. Representatives from the Hoffman Estates Park District had a nice display in the Capitol rotunda. I'm shown here with Hoffman Estates Park District Executive Director Dean Bostrom. We had a nice chat about local parks and the opportunities they provide for active and passive recreation.

It was a pleasure spending time in Springfield with Lindsay Karlin and Joanne Rinaldo of the Palatine Jaycees. We had a nice conversation about the Jaycees and the good work they do in our region.

Illinois’ budget troubles cannot be understated. The state’s daunting $110 billion unfunded pension obligation severely limits the state’s ability to meet its annual education, public safety, transportation, and Medicaid costs, and it heavily factors into its worst-in-the-nation credit rating.

Illinois’ pension payment next year is expected to rise to $8 billion. That means 25 percent of every state budget dollar will go to pensions (for comparison, the national average for state and local governments is less than 10 percent).

The state’s financial future could be even more troubling if the Illinois Supreme Court strikes down the General Assembly’s 2013 pension reform legislation. Many experts expect that to happen based on past rulings. A lower court in Sangamon County has already ruled the law unconstitutional.

I did not support the pension legislation because I believe, and still do, that the reforms did not properly address the real problem. Even if the law survives a Constitutional challenge brought on by the state’s public sector unions, the state’s unfunded pension liability will only be rolled back to 2009 levels—when Illinois already had the worst pension crisis in America. Rewinding the clock on the state’s pension debt is better than to have no reform at all, but let’s not pretend that we have anything close to a permanent solution yet.

The Illinois Constitution states that, “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

Attorney General Lisa Madigan will defend the pension reform law by arguing that because the state is facing an emergency situation, the state’s police powers give it the authority to change the terms of state workers’ pension benefits.

Both sides have strong legal arguments. The law does reduce benefits, and courts have granted states extraordinary police powers in extraordinary situations. The justices will have to determine which argument has the most merit.

In my view, we must not look at the eventual decision by the Illinois Supreme Court as the end of the matter. Whether the courts side with the state or with the unions, the fact remains that the only permanent solution to the state’s $110 billion pension crisis is to change the Illinois Constitution, which is something my colleague Rep. Joe Sosnowski has already filed legislation to do.
The free pass to use emergency police powers to fix the state’s pension system will only last so long. To get to where we need to be, Illinois needs to change its constitution.

I am supporting Rep. Sosnowski’s efforts to amend the Illinois Constitution. Yes, this will be a long and difficult process, but it is the only way to rescue Illinois—for its public workers and its taxpayers.

For too many decades, politicians have promised public sector workers retirement and health care benefits that cannot be sustained by the rest of the taxpayers who underwrite them. These benefits continue to be paid long after these politicians have left office. Residents can and do move to states that are run better than Illinois, taking their taxes and participation in our state’s economy with them. Residents who cannot move face dramatically increased taxes and reduced personal spending and investment, while suffering from diminished government services—even in critical sectors.

Pensions are consuming too much of the state’s revenues and are threatening our ability to pay for today’s public salaries, services, and capital investments while saddling future generations with too much debt. We need a permanent solution beyond the last change to the state’s pension law, and that begins with a change to our constitution.
In response to the Illinois House approval today of House Bills 317 and 318, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has issued the following statement:

“Today the Illinois House took bold action to fix the sham budget approved by Democrats last year. The fiscal year 15 budget was out of balance by $1.6 billion, a fact that former Governor Pat Quinn knew full-well when he signed it. Through these two bipartisan votes we have prevented devastating service disruptions in key budget areas like court reporters, services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled and payroll at our prisons.”

“It is important to note that granting emergency budget authority to the Governor is not without precedent. Similar authority was given to former Governors Quinn and Edgar. My hope is that the Senate follows our lead and approves these two bills so Governor Rauner will have the flexibility he needs to balance the budget he inherited in January.”

Spring Session Well Underway in Springfield
The General Assembly is fast-approaching the midway point of the 2015 Spring Session. The bill filing deadline was Friday, February 27, and by the close of business that day, House members had turned in 4,140 substantive and appropriations bills for their colleagues to review.  Not all of these bills will get out of committee for full House consideration.  Some filings, such as appropriations bills and resolutions, will continue after the deadline.  

House committees have until March 27, to look at the bills filed before the deadline.  Bills that fail to meet this deadline can be worked on by their sponsors and other interested parties for possible future action in the 2016 spring session.  The status of bills filed in the Illinois House and Senate can be found on the Illinois General Assembly  website.

Last week I was honored to be joined in Springfield by Dave Parulo, President of Woodfield Chicago Northwest Convention Bureau, and Rolling Meadows constituent Andy-John Kalkounos.

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Pension Case
The Illinois pension reform law enacted in December 2013 faced questions before the Illinois Supreme Court at oral arguments on Wednesday, March 11.  The Illinois Solicitor General, advocating for the law, stated that the controversial law had been enacted to solve a fiscal emergency.  Established constitutional law authorizes a state, in furtherance of its constitutional duty, to exercise what are called “police powers” that potentially override other considerations.  Plaintiffs seeking to strike down the law say that it improperly violates a section of the state Constitution.  Illinois has the worst-funded pension system of the 50 states.  A decision by the state Supreme Court, which is expected later this spring, could affect budget and pension law policies that will be before the General Assembly as it approaches the May 31 adjournment date.

Slow Economic Growth continues in Illinois
The staff of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) presented their FY16 Economic Forecast  in Springfield on Wednesday, March 10.  COGFA is the nonpartisan economic agency of the Illinois General Assembly, and their Revenue Update for FY15 and numbers for FY16 will be key background data to be used by the General Assembly as they modify the State’s FY15 budget and craft a FY16 budget to meet the urgent fiscal needs of the State. 

COGFA’s numbers confirm that the post-2009 Illinois “recovery” has been the slowest economic expansion of the post-World War II period.  In each previous recession, not only were the rates of decline in economic output less severe, but the ensuing recoveries were faster and steeper.  Illinois economic trend lines, starting in 2010, show steady but very shallow, palely upward-trending movements.  New jobs are created in relatively low numbers and are being created, in Illinois, in insufficient numbers to force increases in median overall wage rates.    

The pale post-2009 “recovery,” combined with the pushdown of State income tax rates in January 2015 are two forces that continue to combine to create a worsening State of Illinois budget crisis.  A spreadsheet presented to staff by the Commission shows net income tax revenues dropping more than $4 billion in FY16, below what would have been paid to the State under the tax rates in effect in FY14.  Growth rates in tax revenues attributable to underlying rates of growth in the Illinois private-sector economy are expected to make up only $500 million of the lost income, leading to a structural deficit of $3.5 billion in FY16.  To this number is supplemented accumulated past-year deficits and unpaid State bills of many billions of additional dollars, plus the spending pressures created by many “entitlement” lines within the State’s budget.   

Unemployment Remains Higher than U.S. as a Whole, but Drops another 0.1%
The figures for January 2015, reported on Thursday, March 12 by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), show that Illinois’s jobless rate fell from 6.2% to 6.1% in January 2015.  The same number was 8.2% in January 2014, down 2.1% over the 12-month period.

Soft spots in the statewide economic picture complicated the continued trend toward lower unemployment. Illinois employment – the number of Illinois residents with nonfarm payroll jobs – also dropped by 7,100 jobs in the same month.  The declining employment and unemployment numbers reflected a stagnating Illinois population and the continued movement of many Illinois residents out of the labor force altogether. 

Many Parents Call for Allowing their Children to Opt Out of PARCC Tests
PARCC standardized tests, which utilize an online platform that students are expected to interact with as they take the test (rather than the format, familiar to their parents, of filling in bubbles on a piece of paper) began to be administered throughout Illinois on Monday, March 9.  The testing cycle is expected to continue for approximately four weeks.  Data from the test will be used to evaluate Illinois public and charter school students, teachers, schools and school systems.

Many parents are concerned about the new PARCC system, which from their point of view was sprung on their children without recourse and without sufficient warning.  No current law allows parents to withdraw their children from the PARCC test, which is supposed to be given to every eligible child in order to generate statistically significant results that can be used to gauge everyone’s performance.  Furthermore, the federal government has sent warning letters to Illinois’ State Board of Education to remind educators of the nexus between federal school aid and compliance with the order that students all take the test.  I have co-sponsored HB306, legislation that would give parents the ability to opt their children out of the tests.

Attitudes by parents toward the PARCC mandate is becoming increasingly coordinated with resistance toward other mandates imposed by schools upon children, such as mandated sex education and compliance with certain health benchmarks.  The “Chicago Sun-Times” describes the issue from the standpoint of concerned parents.  

Comptroller Munger Urges Illinois Individual Income Taxpayers to Register
The Illinois Tax Refund Alert system, rolled out this spring by new Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger, allows taxpayers to monitor the status of their Illinois tax returns, including an automated text-messaging system.  Similar to the familiar warnings that many of us get when our phone or cable bill is due, the test message will tell eligible taxpayers of their payment notifications.   Registration is free through the portal.

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 and my Springfield office at (217) 782-8026. You may send emails to repmorrison54@gmail.com. If you are ever planning a trip to Springfield, please let my Springfield secretary know so that I may adjust my schedule and meet with you. It is a pleasure to serve you.

A bill that would increase the frequency of actuarial reviews of the State’s five public pension systems was approved unanimously in the Illinois House on Thursday.

According to the bill’s sponsor, State Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine), current law only requires a thorough investigation into the pension systems every five years. “A more frequent actuarial study can ensure we are making the right payments to stay on track with our obligations, especially since we now have new Tier II employees in our pension systems,” said Morrison. “These actuarial reviews are incredibly important, because the data leads to recommendations that may be implemented by the pension boards.”

HB422 would amend the Teachers’ Retirement System, State Universities’ Retirement System, State Employees’ Retirement System, Judges’ Retirement System and the General Assembly Retirement System by requiring that the actuary of each system conduct an investigation of the system every three years rather than five years as is currently written in the statutes. Each review would examine the mortality, retirement, disability, separation, interest and salary rate assumptions used by the system for accuracy.

“Allowing for more frequent small changes in system assumptions prevents the need for drastic changes, which ultimately lead to difficulty in budget planning,” Morrison said. “The new data would provide many benefits, including greater predictability for our annual pension payments.”
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.