The Morrison Memo: February 10, 2015


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. 

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