Illinois lawmakers gathered in Springfield last week for the final days of the 100th General Assembly, with State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) taking the Oath of Office and turning his attention to a new General Assembly.
After being sworn in, Senator Fowler issued the following statement:
“Being able to serve the people, communities and businesses of the 59th Senate District is a true privilege and blessing. Thank you for allowing me to be a voice for the people of Southern Illinois and affording me the opportunity to serve the region in this upcoming General Assembly,” said Senator Fowler. “I’m optimistic about this spring legislative session and the potential for change and growth. We have a great opportunity before us to work together, embrace bipartisanship and bring about fundamental reforms that promise a brighter future for our state. Moving forward, I remain dedicated to advocating for the needs of Southern Illinois and will continue to fight for the hardworking taxpayers and job creators in this region.”
Before turning his attention to work ahead in the New Year, Senator Fowler was excited to see legislation to authorize the Illinois Department of Corrections to sell the Hardin County Work Camp property to Hardin County signed into effect.
Senate Bill 3274, which was sponsored by Fowler in the Senate, was signed by Governor Rauner on Jan. 10. The measure allows for the property purchase of the Hardin County Work Camp for $1 with intentions to reopen the facility in the future.
“Sponsoring this legislation was about paving the way for future economic opportunity for Hardin and other surrounding counties,” said Senator Fowler. “I’m excited that we ended the 100th General Assembly by pushing for development and job creation in Southern Illinois.”
Last year, the Hardin County Sheriff’s Department announced their intentions to reopen the Work Camp, utilizing the structure to house upwards of 100 inmates and creating a number of new jobs within the facility.
In other news, Senator Fowler met with fellow members of Governor-elect Pritzker's Job Creation and Economic Opportunity Committee to continue their work as the new Administration prepares to transition into power. Senator Fowler, who serves on the Talent Vocational Training and Workplace Development subcommittee, met with his colleagues to continue preparing information for a report to provide to the new Administration.
Bill Brady unanimously voted Senate Republican Leader
Senator Bill Brady of Bloomington was elected in a unanimous vote to the office of Illinois Senate Republican Leader, as the 101st General Assembly convened Jan. 9.
Brady has represented the 44th Legislative District since his appointment to the Senate in May 2002. Brady previously served in the House of Representatives, representing the 88th District from 1993 to 2001. He became Senate Minority Leader in June 2017.
In remarks last week, Leader Brady said he was honored and humbled to be elected Leader by his Senate colleagues. He said he looks forward to working with members on both sides of the aisle to stabilize Illinois’ economy, create more jobs, balance the state budget and limit tax burdens on Illinois residents.
“The people of Illinois deserve nothing less than our best efforts,” said Brady, following his election as Leader. “Thank you for this opportunity.”
Governor Rauner issues end of term progress report
In a constitutionally prescribed report to be delivered to the 101st General Assembly, Gov. Rauner said that critical fiscal challenges remain for the state despite important progress his administration made in education, government operations, healthcare services, technology, job growth, and criminal justice.
"We have helped save billions of dollars for taxpayers and we've dramatically improved service," the Governor said, "but if state government spending continues to grow faster than our economy, we will not be able to avoid persistent deficits, tax increases, and the out-migration of jobs and families.
"Unless we implement major structural reforms to cause our economy to grow faster than government, our children could face a bleak future of ever higher taxes and lost opportunity," he said.
The full report highlights some of the Rauner-Sanguinetti Administration's achievements since 2015 in education, economy, government and political and ethics reform. The highlights include:
Education: Record funding for K-12 and early childhood education and equal funding for charter schools, expanded student apprenticeships, a historic tuition scholarship tax credit, and one of the best plans in America for measuring student growth.
Economy: Record high employment, the formation of Intersect Illinois to recruit and expand businesses at no expense to taxpayers, reduced LLC fees and red tape and fewer regulatory burdens, clean energy job leadership, and dramatically expanded minority contracting with the state.
Government: Moved state services into the digital age saving billions for taxpayers, eliminated forced unionization of government employees, negotiated 22 incentive-based contracts with state unions, won a $2 billion 1115 Medicaid waiver to vault the state into pre-eminence in mental health, prevented millions in Medicaid fraud and abuse, and cut prison recidivism rates from 50 percent to 39 percent.
Politics & Ethics: Signed Executive Orders to curb lobbyist revolving doors and sexual harassment and prevent legislators arguing cases in front of the state property tax appeals board; championed term limits and fair maps; and urged legislators to remove blocks to such majority-supported voter initiatives.
Illinois receives $3. 7 million Early Childhood Development Grant funds
The Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development this week received a $3.7 million Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five (PDG B-5) Initial Grant Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The grant is one of 45 distributed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Child Care to enhance early childhood programming, which includes Head Start and Early Head Start, state prekindergarten programs, child care, and home visiting services. The Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development will serve as the lead agency for the grant, which will allow the Office to develop a needs assessment and strategic plan and to strengthen the state's system of early childhood programs.
In 2016, an executive order established the Governor's Cabinet on Children and Youth, which convenes leaders from across state agencies to improve outcomes for Illinois children and families. One of the projects that the Children's Cabinet has adopted is promoting early childhood workforce development.
The PDG B-5 grant will run through Dec. 31, 2019, and the Office will have the opportunity to apply for renewal grants before the end of the year.