With the arrival of the new year comes a series of new laws enacted by the State of Illinois. This year, over 200 new laws will take effect on January 1. These include bills for small technical corrections as well as major pieces of legislation. Click here to read a summary of these new laws which will be on the books next year. For more information on all the bills in the General Assembly, visit www.ilga.gov.
Illinois’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps eligible low-income households pay for winter energy services. The program’s heat and electric assistance is a one-time benefit payment per heating season. The amount received depends upon household size, income and energy costs.

A household is eligible for heating assistance through LIHEAP if the combined income is at or below the levels shown in the accompanying chart. For more information on this program, click here.
With the year-long Bicentennial celebration underway, let’s find out just how much you know about Illinois’ history. Take this quiz and learn how much you know about Illinois' past. Click hereto start the quiz.
A statewide helpline has been launched to provide immediate assistance for those impacted by addiction to opioids and other substances. The helpline can be accessed free of charge by dialing 1-833-2FINDHELP.

The helpline will provide a confidential outlet for individuals experiencing opioid use disorders, their families and anyone affected by the disease. It will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by specialists trained in evidence-based approaches to help connect callers with treatment and recovery-support services.

The helpline is the latest step in Illinois lawmakers’ commitment to tackle the opioid crisis and combat the growing number of overdose deaths related to heroin, other opioids, and synthetics like fentanyl. Officials from the Rauner administration have been meeting throughout the year to establish an agenda to combat the epidemic, and the Governor unveiled the Opioid Action Plan and signed Executive Order 2017-05 creating the Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force in September of this year. The task force, chaired by Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Nirav Sha, was charged with building strategies that would help reduce projected opioid overdose-related deaths by one-third within the next three years.

Another policy established under Executive Order 2017-05 was a Standing Order to make the overdose reversal drug Naloxone (Narcan) available to first responders and members of communities across Illinois, without a prescription.

IDPH data shows opioid overdoses killed 1,946 people in Illinois in 2016 — more than one and a half times the number of homicides and nearly twice the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents. In addition, data from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) estimates that approximately 248,000 Illinois residents need, but do not receive, treatment for illicit drug use.

The Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances is funded by federal grant dollars that the State of Illinois secured from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The Opioid State Targeted Response grant is administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.
On the heels of being named a “Taxpayer Friend” for earning a perfect score on the Illinois Tax Survey compiled by Taxpayers United of America, Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has been recognized by the Illinois Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA) for earning high marks for his support of manufacturing in Illinois. Morrison’s 90% ranking was based on votes he took in 2017 that affect the manufacturing industry and the overall Illinois economy.

“The outmigration of manufacturing jobs in Illinois is having a negative impact on the state’s economy and employment numbers,” said Morrison. “As lawmakers we have a responsibility to ease the regulations that are driving these job creators out of the state.”

TMA President Steven Rauschenberger applauded Morrison for being a champion for the manufacturing industry and said, “Tom Morrison is a State Representative who understands the need for Illinois to grow high paying jobs, and his voting record reflects that. Representative Morrison’s record shows that he is a thoughtful legislator who is committed to his constituents’ future.”

The Technology and Manufacturing Association assists Illinois’ $100 billion manufacturing sector through advice, education, and other programs and also advocates for legislation to help the industry succeed in Illinois. Click here to view a list of the legislation included on the scorecard and a full ranking of every Illinois State Representative and Senator.
Cook County Soda Pop Tax Repeal Takes Effect
When members of the Cook County Board implemented a one cent per ounce tax on sweetened beverages, the pushback from taxpayers was immediate. Widespread public opposition through grassroots efforts led members of the Cook County Board to repeal the unpopular tax just a few months after approving it. Sweetened beverages were sold for the first time without the tax on Friday, December 1. Despite the repeal of the soda pop tax, residents of Cook County continue to pay some of the highest taxes in the United States. I was vocal with my opposition to the tax, and during the grassroots effort to repeal it I collected nearly 300 signatures on an online petition.

Lawsuit Filed to Halt Implementation of House Bill 40
Several Illinois lawmakers joined nearly a dozen pro-life organizations and the Diocese of Springfield in filing suit on Thursday to stop a bill that would allow for taxpayer funding of elective abortions in Illinois.

The complaint was filed in Sangamon County Circuit Court in Springfield and makes two claims against the controversial bill. Plaintiffs believe that because there was no revenue stream attached to the legislation, money does not exist in the budget to cover the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 abortions per year that would result from the implementation of the bill. With no revenue to support the up to $30 million cost, their argument is that the bill violates Illinois’ Constitutional balanced budget requirement. Secondly, those bringing the suit argue that the January 1, 2018 effective date must be pushed to June 1, because the bill did not pass out of the Senate until the end of September, months after the May 31 cut-off date for bills to take effect on January 1.

Rep. Morrison Earns Perfect Score on Tax Survey by Taxpayers United of America
I recently learned that during the 99th General Assembly I earned a perfect score on the Illinois Tax Survey compiled by Taxpayers United of America. The score is based on votes I took during the 99th General Assembly on bills that influence taxes. Thirty-two members of the Illinois House were recognized with a “passing” score of 70% or above on the tax survey, but only three of us earned perfect scores. State Representatives Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) and Peter Breen (R-Lombard) also received perfect scores. 

For the Taxpayers United tax survey, lawmakers were scored on their votes on ten different bills during the 99th General Assembly. You can read more about it here.

Illinois Notched 40,400 STEM Graduates in 2016
The Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, utilizing data from LinkedIn, tracks Illinois higher education graduation choices and numbers. In the Fall 2017 “Talent Index” report, the Coalition reports a record number of Illinois higher education graduates in fields relating to high-tech economic growth.

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) study fields are often treated as proxies for the ability of a recent graduate of higher education to contribute to the evolving high-tech economy. The 40,400 STEM degrees awarded in Illinois in 2016 represent 31.8% of all Illinois graduates, which compares favorably with the parallel ratio of 28.3% posted by U.S. 2016 graduates as a national group. Illinois’ numbers indicate that Prairie State institutions of higher education are outpacing the higher education infrastructure of the U.S. as a whole in the encouragement of growth-oriented educational pathways.

Within this overall STEM graduation population, 3,300 degrees were awarded in computer science. This record number of Illinois computer science degrees made Illinois second only to California in the number of degrees awarded. Illinois institutions of higher education awarded 4.4% of total U.S. degrees awarded in 2016, but 9.9% of total U.S. computer science degrees.

Illinois Begins Bicentennial Countdown
The twelve-month period to observe Illinois’ 200th birthday as a state officially began over the weekend on December 3 when Illinois turned 199. The Illinois Bicentennial Commission is coordinating a program of events in locations throughout Illinois to celebrate the milestone. More events are expected to be added as Illinois approaches the actual birthday on December 3, 2018. This birthday commemorates passage by Congress of the law that admitted Illinois to the Union as the 21st state. Illinois was one of the states planned by President Thomas Jefferson as his proposal for the future of what had been the frontier “Northwest Territory.” By 1818 Jefferson had left office, but his friend and successor President James Monroe led the actual admission of Illinois into the national union of states. The bicentennial logo was developed by my friend, owner of a Schaumburg design firm, Ben Olsen.