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This month in  Springfield, State Representative Mike Tryon sat down with Elle Pai Hong of Comcast Newsmakers to discuss the Diabetes epidemic in Illinois and across the nation, and to explain some of his personal legislative initiatives to improve Illinoisans' access to to care, information and healthy food choices. You can listen to the interview by clicking on the image to the left.
This week, the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office announced a change to Illinois driver’s licenses and ID cards designed to protect against identity theft and to bring Illinois closer to compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005. The enhanced security features will include a new photo structure, a design that includes patterns, lines and images to make it more difficult to counterfeit, a laser perforation and an ultraviolet feature.

There’s no need to replace your driver’s license or ID card immediately, but there are a few changes to the process you should be aware of when it comes time to renew your license or ID.

When you visit the DMV, take any tests you may normally be required to, but when you leave you will no longer be issued a new driver’s license or ID card at the end of the process. Instead, you will leave the facility with a temporary secure paper driver's license, which will be valid for 45 days and will serve as your license or ID for driving purposes and proof of identification. You will also receive your old license back with a hole punched in it. Your information will then be sent to a centralized, secure facility to conduct fraud checks and ensure your identity. The new, more secure license or ID will be printed and sent via U.S. mail within 15 business days to your address. For air travel, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said that it will accept the temporary document in conjunction with the old license or ID to board an aircraft until the permanent card arrives in the mail.

Click here for a step-by-step brochure from the Secretary of State’s Office on how the new process will work.

The transition will take place in phases. Beginning today, Safe Driver Renewal applicants will receive by mail their new driver's license with the upgraded security features. Beginning in late June 2016, through a gradual rollout, DMV’s throughout the state will implement the new process. By the end of July 2016, all DMV’s will have transitioned to the new process.

For questions, call the Secretary of State’s Office at (217) 782-7044.
Bipartisanship and compromise prevailed in Springfield this week when lawmakers from both parties in the House and Senate came together to provide $700 million in emergency funding for Illinois human service agencies that are on the brink of collapse due to the budget stalemate.

SB 2038 will funnel vitally-needed resources to agencies statewide to keep them afloat through the end of this fiscal year. State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) joined the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in supporting the bill. “Agencies like Pioneer Center in McHenry County, which provides critical services for disabled and struggling families, have been caught in the crossfire of the budget battle,” said Tryon. “While SB 2038 does not provide a permanent solution to the fiscal crisis, it does represent a lifeline that will allow these kinds of agencies to continue with the delivery of services.”

Through SB 2038, the following funds are allocated:
  • Department of Human Services: $247,989,000
  • Healthcare and Family Services: $5,400,000 
  • Department of Public Health: $17,988,300
  • Department on Aging: $243,492,100
  • Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority: $9,098,600
  • Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity: $458,000
  • Department of Military Affairs: $1,266,500
  • Department of Transportation: $343,500
  • Department of Revenue: $170,500,000
“The key element of this bill is that spending was matched to an available revenue stream,” Tryon said. “Just as we did with higher education stopgap funding three weeks ago, Republicans and Democrats worked collaboratively to find available money that we could channel to these important agencies.”

Tryon expressed his disappointment that the bill did not address funding issues with state prisons and with other human service facilities that were not part of the bill, but applauded the respectful and inclusive process that led to the version of SB 2038 that came to the floor for a vote. “While we still have gridlock at the top between Speaker Madigan and the Governor, it is nice to see rank and file lawmakers from both sides of the aisle coming together to pass these balanced emergency funding bills,” Tryon said. “There is still a great deal of work to be done, and I hope Republicans and Democrats can build off of this recent good will and work together toward a balanced budget that includes cost-saving reforms. These reforms will free-up money and ensure that those who rely on state funding for their programs are not put in a situation like what they're experiencing this year ever again.”

After its approval in the House, SB 2038 was promptly approved in the Senate. The bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
For the third year in a row, a bill that threatens to take valuable state funding away from our local schools is making its way through the legislative process in Springfield. Yesterday, Senator Andy Manar’s SB 231 was approved in the Senate by a narrow margin. Today it arrived in the House for our consideration. Manar’s SB 231 is similar to his SB 1 from last year and to his SB 16 from the year before that. In this newest version of his bill, 2/3 of Illinois’ school districts will lose state funding.

Nearly every suburban school district will lose valuable state funding dollars if this bill is approved in the House. As you can see from the chart below, the schools that comprise about 95% of District 66 lose money. To be fair, I do represent a sliver of the U-46 school district, which would be a winner under the Manar bill. The second yellow column is the most telling, as it takes the funding loss down to the per-student level. My greatest concern about this redistribution of funding is the fact that here in the suburbs we already pay approximately 90% of the costs associated with educating kids through our property taxes, which are extremely high. Through this bill and those that have preceded it, what little state funding we do receive would be channeled away from us, forcing additional tax increases on an already taxed-to-the-max public.
There are some shocking components to this new bill, especially as they relate to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). This bill includes a massive CPS bailout to the tune of $175 million in additional funding and $205 million to rescue a failing pension system for CPS teachers. This new $380 million is on top of the $367 million in CPS-specific grants that CPS already receives. Worst of all, the bill gives this new money to CPS with no reform measures built in that would force CPS to be more efficient and to produce better results for students.

SB 231 includes a four year phase-down of funds that suburban schools would forfeit. Done in 25% increments, this “hold-harmless” clause is supposed to make us feel better about sending our money to Chicago and downstate. The bill also includes adequacy grants that would be distributed to school districts that are highly taxed but are still funded below where they should be according to Manar. The problem is, no revenue source has been identified for the grants. Because it is “phantom” money, we cannot count on it to actually materialize.

I will keep you informed about this bill and will fight hard against it. Once it has been assigned to a committee for a hearing, I will share information with you about how you can voice your opposition to this detrimental bill.
Algonquin Man Named Illinois Soldier of the Year
Spc. Tycjan Sieradzki of Algonquin, a member of the 244th Digital Liaison Detachment, won first-place honors in the Illinois Soldier of the Year competition held recently at the Marseilles Training Center. The competition, open to members of the Illinois National Guard, is an annual exercise intended to recognize and honor excellence in physical fitness, mental toughness, and skill competence.

A full-time truck driver when not on active duty, Sieradzki told a reporter that he had trained for the 2016 competition with calisthenics, by shooting at a local gun range, by self-orienteering for land navigation skills in wooded areas, and had worked with his unit mates to learn and memorize information for the brain-skill section of the competition. This was his second year in the ISY competition after coming in third in 2015.

As part of his victory, Sieradzki has been honored with invitations to represent the Illinois National Guard in the NFL Draft ceremony and player selection event held in Chicago on April 28-30, and in the Midwest U.S. regional Best Warrior competition to be held in Ohio on May 16-19. A representative from the National Guard will be invited to the U.S. Army Soldier of the Year competition to be held at Fort A.P. Hill in southern Virginia on September 26 through October 3 of this year.

Governor Signs Bipartisan Higher Education Bill
In a rare showing of bipartisanship in Springfield on April 22, the House and Senate approved SB 2059, which provided $600 million in emergency stopgap funding for Illinois’ colleges and universities, and for Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for students from lower income brackets. On Monday, April 25, Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill into law, making it possible for the Comptroller’s office to begin transferring lifeline funding to Illinois’ nine universities, 12 campuses, 39 community college districts and approximately 120,000 MAP grant recipients.

The money provided by SB 2059 will help keep operations going and enable students to remain active in classroom learning. Full funding awaits continued work by the General Assembly to enact constitutional balanced budgets for FY16 and FY17. Illinois higher education has not received operational funding from the State since July 1, 2016, when FY16 began.

Governor Rauner Organizes Task Force against Health Care Fraud
The task force, created earlier in April 2016 by executive order, has been asked to look into possible fraud, waste, and abuse in state-administered health care programs. Illinois taxpayers pay $19 billion a year to administer and pass through payments on state-run health care programs. Most of this money is paid directly by state taxpayers to Illinois, and a large subset is paid through federal taxes paid by Illinoisans to Washington, D.C.-based programs in which both Illinois and the federal government collaborate and provide funds.

Rauner has asked the task force to review the best practices currently used by the private sector to examine and control soaring health care costs. Other states’ efforts to reduce Medicaid fraud and other forms of public sector health care abuse are also to be looked at. The task force will work with data managers skilled at “big data” analytics to uncover statistical patterns indicative of non-optimal health care billing and spending.

The task force has been asked to write a report that will:
  • Make recommendations for policy changes the State needs to consider 
  • Refer specific cases of wrongful reimbursements to authorities to seek recovery on behalf of Illinois taxpayers.
Maker of Specialty Polymers Consolidates Jobs in Chicagoland
A materials maker, which operates plants in Batavia, Illinois and in greater Cleveland, has announced plans to close its Ohio plant and to consolidate operations in Illinois. The move is expected to be complete by the end of 2016.Techmer PM’s Batavia plant compounds chemicals into additive concentrates, which are then sold to end-manufacturers. The 26 Techmer employees currently based in northern Ohio will be offered jobs in Batavia, Illinois or at the firm’s facility in eastern Tennessee. Techmer PM also announced that their Batavia plant had been designated as a “Midwest Center of Excellence.” Techmer PM currently operates seven production facilities throughout the U.S.

New Study Confirms that Illinoisans Pay Highest Property Taxes in Nation
The study, published by CoreLogic, compares property taxes paid with the value of the real property being taxed. According to CoreLogic, the median property tax paid nationwide is 1.31% of the property being taxed, while the median Illinois tax is twice that, or 2.67% of value. This measurement scale makes Illinois the highest-property-tax state in the U.S., with New York second at 2.53% of value.

The CoreLogic data indicates that if an Illinois homeowner is occupying a house valued at $200,000, the homeowner will be paying a median annual property tax bill of $5,340. As always, individual homeowners’ experiences may vary. Different localities within Illinois will have different property tax rates; and within localities, different property owners may enjoy the effect of specific property tax relief measures. For example, senior citizen homeowners benefit from the Senior Citizens Homestead Property Tax Exemption, which automatically subtracts some of the value from the assessed value of the senior citizen’s house before the tax bill is generated.

According to CoreLogic, neighboring states have lower property tax rates than Illinois- 1.95% in Wisconsin, 1.69% in Iowa, 1.26% in Missouri, and 0.88% in Indiana. CoreLogic’s data, published this week, agrees with previously public state-by-state surveys by firms such as WalletHub, which have also found Illinois to be one of the worst states in the nation.
Illinoisans who rely on public assistance programs may soon be able to use their benefits to gain better access to fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets throughout Illinois.

HB 6027, sponsored by State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake), would allow Illinois to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrition Incentive Program, and would enable low-income citizens to use their SNAP benefits or LINK cards at farmers markets for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Today we have 500 farmers markets in Illinois, but only 68 of them accept LINK cards,” said Tryon. “The provisions of my bill will allow public assistance benefits to be used all over the state at farmers markets, and incentivize lower income citizens to purchase healthy foods.”

According to Tryon, if approved and signed into law, HB 6027 would also allow Illinois to take advantage of $100 million in federal funds that have been earmarked for healthy foods programs. “In some parts of the state, people’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables is limited,” said Tryon. “My hope is that this legislation will prompt more farmers markets to open throughout Illinois so that more and more people can have better access to healthier food choices.”

HB 6027 will be heard in the Illinois Senate when lawmakers return to Springfield in May.
A bill that would allow returning servicemen and women to enroll in Illinois public colleges and universities as a freshman during a spring term received unanimous support Thursday from the House of Representatives’ Higher Education Committee.

State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake), the Chief Sponsor of HB 4627, said he was shocked last year to learn that a constituent who had recently been honorably discharged from the military was denied admission to the University of Illinois-Chicago as a freshman to start in the January term. “Here’s a young man who served his country with honor, and upon his arrival home he was ready to start working on his college degree,” said Tryon. “Because he had missed the deadline to apply for fall admission, he applied to begin his studies in the January term, only to be told freshman could only begin the school year in the fall. I asked the University to change its enrollment procedure to accommodate returning veterans and they refused, so I felt I had to put a law on the books to require our institutions of higher learning to make exceptions for these men and women.”

HB 4627 would require the governing boards of each public university to establish an admissions process in which honorably discharged veterans are permitted to submit an application for admission to the school as a freshman student enrolling in the spring semester if the veteran was on active duty during the fall semester.

“These are not traditional young adults,” Tryon said. “This is a special classification of people who answered a call to serve their country, and when they return we need to support them as they transition back into civilian life. For those who wish to immediately pursue a college degree, the least we can do is remove unnecessary roadblocks to their admissions process.”

HB 4627 now moves to the House Floor for full consideration.