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Legislation filed in response to the costly bleacher battle between the City of Crystal Lake and District 155’s Crystal Lake South High School was signed into law on Thursday by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Sponsored by State Senator Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) in the Senate and State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) in the House, Senate Bill 2186, signed into law as Public Act 99-0890, requires school districts and their school boards to adhere to the zoning requirements of the municipality, county or township where the pertinent part of a building, structure, or addition is built. The bill further states that municipalities will make efforts to streamline the zoning process and ensure that any fees or costs tied to the review will be reasonable and not burdensome.

The new law seeks to clarify in the statutes the exact elements of local law that must be followed when schools engage in building or land improvements. In 2013, District 155 constructed a new set of home bleachers near the Crystal Lake South football field, and the new bleachers sat only 41 feet from neighboring property lines. Crystal Lake zoning ordinances require a 50-foot setback. The bleachers and press box were also of a size and height that would require zoning variances from the city. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which affirmed lower court decisions that school districts are subject to local zoning laws.

“This law echoes what the court already decided,” said Sen. Althoff. “But most importantly, it clarifies a gray area in the school code and lays down a clear path for future construction and developments.”

“Even though the City of Crystal Lake and District 155 ultimately reached an agreement, taxpayers for both bodies were left on the hook for the cost of both sides of the legal battle,” said Rep. Tryon. “Moving forward, school districts and municipalities will now have a clear roadmap for working together on these types of projects.”

The provisions of the bill took effect immediately upon the bill’s signing.
When Crystal Lake resident Sam Kruse was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps last year, all he wanted to do was begin his college studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. But rather than enroll for fall classes, he was told that a university rule and strict admissions deadlines meant he would have to wait a full year to become a student.

After hearing the Kruse family’s story, State Representative Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) went to work and closed the college admissions loophole in a bill that was signed into law on Sunday by Governor Bruce Rauner. “Sam’s parents explained to me that their son’s college admission was rejected first because he had missed the fall applications deadline, and then for spring because UIC only allowed freshman students to start school in the fall term,” said Tryon, Chief Sponsor of HB 4627. “This is an honorably discharged member of our military who answered a call to serve his country. Upon these people’s return from active duty, we need to be doing everything we can to ensure their successful transition back into civilian life.”

The new law, known as Public Act 99-0806, requires each public state university to establish an admissions process in which honorably discharged veterans are permitted to submit an application for admission to the University as a freshman student enrolling in the spring semester if the veteran was on active duty during the fall semester. “This is common sense legislation,” Tryon said. “Our honorably discharged military personnel have a level of maturity that would more than compensate for any college transition issues. Furthermore, by increasing educational opportunities for those serving in the armed forces, we are helping these men and women reach their full potential when they return from service.”

According to Kruse, UIC eventually did make an exception for his specific case, and he started school and did well during his first semester. However, they were unwilling to change their policy for all returning servicemen and women. “I applaud the efforts of Representative Tryon, (Senate Sponsor) Senator Althoff and the Governor for ensuring that veterans are treated with the respect they deserve after serving their country,” said Kruse. “In my case, my experience in serving in the Marines more than prepared me for college life.”

HB 4627 received unanimous support in the House and Senate and its provisions take effect immediately.
State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) will finish his final term in the Illinois General Assembly serving as the Republican Spokesperson and Co-Chair of the State’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR).

Tryon was appointed to the key role by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and is replacing former JCAR Co-Chair Ron Sandack, who resigned from the General Assembly two weeks ago. “JCAR is a very important committee and I have every confidence that Mike will do a great job watching out for the taxpayers of Illinois,” said Durkin. Prior to being elevated to the position of Co-Chair, Tryon was an appointed member of the committee.

JCAR is a bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislative oversight committee that oversees the rule-making process by state agencies, making sure proposed rules abide by the original intent of lawmakers. The commission is composed of 12 legislators who are appointed by the legislative leaders of the House and Senate, split equally between Republicans and Democrats. It is co-chaired by one member from each political party.

“It is quite an honor to be chosen by Leader Durkin for this important committee,” said Tryon, who is retiring in January after serving 12 years in the House of Representatives. “As legislation is approved and agencies create rules for implementation of new laws, our job as a non-partisan group is to ensure that the rules reflect the true intent of the law as it was discussed in the House and Senate and signed by the Governor.”

JCAR meets regularly in Springfield from January through May and in Chicago during the summer and fall months.
With the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro just a few hours away, here in District 66 we have a hometown hero who is fighting for Gold in track and field as a 3000 meter steeplechase runner.

Four years ago, Algonquin native and Jacobs High School Graduate Evan Jager took sixth place in the London Olympic Games, and this year he is a favorite to medal and perhaps win Gold. While at Jacobs, Evan won three individual state championship titles and one relay title as a distance runner. Evan went on to attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he had brief, but great success, before becoming a professional distance runner.

It wasn’t until 2012 when Evan was introduced to the steeplechase, a distance running event which features hurdles and water hazards. He quickly rose to the top of this event and is the current American record holder in the 3000 meter steeplechase. When he placed sixth in the 2012 Olympics in London, it was remarkably only the seventh time he had run the steeplechase.

At this year’s United States Olympic Trials for track and field, Evan took first place with a time of 8:22:48. He will be looking to beat that time as he faces the always-talented Kenyan runners.

The networks of NBC will be providing coverage of this year’s Olympic Games, and Evan’s first race will be broadcast live at 9:50 AM on the morning of Monday, August 15, with the finals scheduled for 9:50 AM on Wednesday, August 17. To view a complete schedule of Olympic events on the various stations affiliated with NBC, click here.

Friends and family of this local track star will host watching parties at Buffalo Wild Wings in Algonquin on Randall Road during each of Evan’s races. Whether you watch Evan on NBC or at the viewing party at BWW, I hope you’ll join me in wishing Algonquin’s Evan Jager the very best as he pursues his dreams of attaining Olympic Gold.

Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that his office has reinstated the mailing of vehicle registration reminder notices to Illinois drivers. To offset the cost of the mailings, White is drafting legislation allowing his office to offer advertising space on the mailings. In addition, White is urging the public to sign-up for email notices to further reduce mailing costs.

The Secretary of State’s office discontinued mailing reminders in October 2015 due to the lack of funding as a direct result of the state budget impasse. The stop-gap budget recently passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor allows White’s office to reinstate the notices.

“The notices are an essential tool for the public to be sure their vehicles are in good standing and avoid paying late fees and fines resulting from tickets issued by law enforcement,” White said. “The driving public paid the price for the budget impasse and it proved to be an unfair burden. With the funds from the stop-gap budget the notices will resume. In addition, we are reducing the number of mailings and seeking alternative funding sources for the postage costs.”

“Although we are now able to reinstate mailing the vehicle registration reminder notices, I continue to strongly urge motorists to sign up for email reminders,” said White. “Saving taxpayer dollars is always a priority of our administration.”

White noted that more than 2.3 million people have registered for the email notification, 800,000 of which signed up since October 2015.

Vehicle owners can sign up for email notifications by visiting the Secretary of State website, To register for the program, vehicle owners will need their assigned registration ID and PIN, which can be found on their current vehicle registration card. If that information is not available, they can call the Secretary of State public inquiry division at 800-252-8980 to obtain the Registration ID and PIN.

The one-time registration process will allow vehicle owners to receive a series of three email notices per vehicle each year highlighting the upcoming vehicle expiration date.
Motorists who attempt to cross railroad tracks while the gate is down or lights are flashing will see fines doubled under legislation signed into law Thursday by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Sponsored in the Senate by State Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles) and in the House by State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake), SB 2806, now known as PA 99-0663, seeks to deter those who ignore the signals and cross tracks while oncoming trains approach. “Illinois ranked second in the nation last year with regard to rail crossing fatalities, and it is my hope that these new, steeper fines will make motorists think twice before making the foolish decision to cross railroad tracks when it is unsafe to do so,” said McConnaughay. “It was a pleasure to work with Metra on this life-saving legislation.”

Through the provisions of SB 2806, fines will be doubled to $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses of failing to stop at least 15 feet from the closest rail when an electric or mechanical signal device is activated or a crossing gate has been lowered, or when an approaching train is plainly visible.

“Drivers need to take the warning signals seriously when it comes to train tracks,” said Tryon. “The number of deaths and injuries sustained at railroad crossings is alarmingly high in Illinois, so doubling the penalties for infractions should help reduce injuries and fatalities.”

According to Metra, which worked with McConnaughay and Tryon on the legislation, in 2015 motorists who ignored rail road crossing signals and gates were involved in 140 rail crossing collisions which resulted in 24 fatalities and 79 injuries. Illinois currently has the second-largest rail system in the nation, with more than 7,300 miles of railroad track and 10,363 public highway crossings.

SB 2806 does not increase fines for pedestrians crossing the track when signals and gates are activated. However, Metra officials have pledged to work with lawmakers on future legislation that addresses that problem.
In my travels in and around McHenry and Kane Counties, I am often asked, “How come you legislators aren’t getting anything done?” In my response I tell people that success and progress do not always come in the form of approved legislation. Sometimes our achievements have more to do with the legislation we stop or defeat. Especially when in the superminority, often times our biggest job is to stand firm for taxpayers and stop costly and irresponsible legislation from becoming law.

The importance of this role was never more evident as it was during Fiscal Year 2016, when Republicans stood together to stop several Democrat initiatives that would have continued Illinois’ tradition of unbalanced budgets, irresponsible spending and tax hikes. Taxpayers benefitted this last fiscal year when Republicans did the following:
  • Defeated the Democrat FY17 spending plan ($7 billion out of balance) that would have raised personal income tax rates to more than 5.5%;
  • Sustained a veto of the Democrats’ FY16 unbalanced budget ($4 billion out of balance);
  • Blocked repeated attempts by the Democrat supermajority to force a $3 billion tax hike on Illinois families to fund additional generous perks and benefits for unionized government employees;
  • Blocked a Democrat attempt to bailout Chicago Public Schools with an additional $400 million in taxpayer funds; and
  • Linked the June 30 bridge funding plan to comprehensive, constitutional pension reform.
It is estimated that by standing together for taxpayers during FY16, the people of Illinois were able to keep at least $7 billion more of their hard-earned money in their own pockets. Moving ahead into FY17, Republicans will continue to be vehemently opposed to tax-and-spend initiatives that have brought our State to the brink of insolvency, and will instead advocate for sensible reforms and fiscal sanity to finally stabilize our State.

Secretary of State’s Office Uses new Process for Drivers’ License Renewals
One key change, mandated by the federal government, is an end to the traditional practice of presenting each driver with a new drivers’ license on-site when the renewal procedure is completed. The federal REAL ID law requires all new 50-state drivers’ licenses to be manufactured in guarded, secured facilities. In Illinois, starting in summer 2016, drivers who successfully renew their licenses at a Secretary of State Driver Services facility will get their old licenses back with a hole punched through them, accompanied by an additional 45-day paper slip of successful renewal. The punched hole will signify that the old license is on course to lose its validity, but will remain temporarily valid throughout the 45-day period. The driver should carry both the old license and the paper slip, which when carried together will be a valid drivers’ license for up to 45 days.

Meanwhile, the information gathered in the Secretary of State Driver Services facility will be transmitted to a central location where a new, secure driver’s license will be printed and stamped. The new license will contain various features intended to increase the security of the license and further reduce potential counterfeiting. The new license should be mailed to the driver within 15 days, and once received should be carried and used. The old license with a hole in it will no longer be valid.

The Secretary of State’s office is also on course to impose additional security requirements upon first-time applicants for a standard drivers’ license, starting on July 1, 2017. First-time applicants will be required to present a U.S. passport, a certified copy of their birth certificate, or immigration documents that demonstrate proof of legal residence in the U.S. These are all requirements that are being imposed on all U.S. states by the federal Department of Homeland Security pursuant to implementation of the post-9/11 REAL ID Act.

Illinois Solar Energy Installations Rose 75% in 2015
The rate of annual increase indicated increasing acceptance of solar panels in Illinois. The now-familiar installations are typically installed on roofs or other raised platforms. A solar panel will generate electricity whenever photons are striking the panel, including on cloudy days. “Net metering” technology enables a building equipped with solar panels to feed electricity into an electrical grid on sunny days and to draw power down during periods of time when the sun is dim or absent. 

Covering activity in Central Illinois, a reporter for the Peoria Journal Star talked with a solar energy consultant and client. The businesses had collaborated to plan and install a $62,500 solar panel array on a rooftop in downtown Peoria. Aided by state and federal tax credits, the project was expected to generate a positive return in less than five years.

One challenge facing adopters of “renewable energy” infrastructure is that on a typical 24-hour cycle, the periods when renewable energy are not being produced tend to be commonly shared by everybody across the geographic area. At certain periods of time, none of these pieces of renewable-power infrastructure will be feeding net-metered power into an electrical grid. Periods of solar night, or wind calm, make the solar panels go dark and cause the wind turbines to stop spinning. Operators of traditional utility infrastructure often point out that in order to meet their franchise mandates to provide reliable power on a 24/7 basis, they typically must maintain almost all of the fossil-fuel energy infrastructure that they would have maintained had solar and wind power not existed.

Cook County Judge Takes First Step to Strike Down “Independent Map” Amendment
The proposed constitutional amendment was spearheaded to give voters an opportunity to vote on whether to reform the way Illinois legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years. The amendment, if presented to the voters and adopted, would erase the political procedure currently used to draw these maps and create a new nonpartisan process in its place. The new process is intended to produce a map that is not “slanted” in favor of one political party or the other.

Opponents of the proposed constitutional amendment filed a lawsuit in Cook County circuit court, demanding that voters not be permitted to vote on the measure and that it be barred from appearing on the November 2016 ballot. Their lawsuit won a victory in Cook County circuit court on Wednesday, July 20. In her decision in the case of Hooker vs. Illinois State Board of Elections, Judge Diane Joan Larsen cited several constitutional concerns as fatal flaws in the amendment and ordered that it be struck from the ballot. The Supreme Court will hear the case in an expedited manner.

Illinois’ Marketing to Travelers Concentrates on Small Businesses
The new “Illinois Made” campaign encourages visitors to come to Illinois to enjoy our homegrown and craft products. The $65 million appropriation, being distributed through the Illinois Office of Tourism, is funded through taxes on hotel and motel room rentals. Selections of featured local businesses are coordinated by local tourism bureaus.

The first round of “Illinois Made” featured products and tourism experiences features Funks Grove maple syrup, tapped and boiled down from a historic grove of sugar maple trees south of Bloomington-Normal. The confectionary product, which the Funk family has called “sirup” since 1824, is sold from a roadside store near the I-55 exit of Shirley, Illinois.

$15 Million Plan to Rebuild Illinois Executive Mansion to Rely on Private-Sector Fundraising
The Lincoln-era stately home, located near the State Capitol in central Springfield, has been the home of Illinois governors since 1856. The mansion last saw major renovation work in 1971 and no longer conforms to current legal and building-code requirements for security, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, energy conservation, and many other checkoff areas. There have been serious incidents of pipe bursts and roof leaks in recent years.

Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner last week unveiled a $15 million plan that would encompass a major rebuild of the mansion and its grounds. The renovation and rebuilding, if implemented, would improve access to a section of the mansion to the public. The public section of the mansion would include a visitor orientation center and a gallery space for the celebration of Illinois works of art. At the same time, a private wing of the mansion would be renovated to provide actual living space for governors of Illinois and their families.

The Diana Rauner plan is expected to be entirely funded by the private sector. The Illinois Executive Mansion Association, a 501(c)(3) entity, is currently engaged in the active raising of funds to commence the first phase of the project. Approximately $4.5 million has been raised so far.

Live Auction of Unclaimed Property to be Held at Illinois State Fair
The Treasurer’s office announced plans for a live auction of unclaimed property at the 2016 Illinois State Fair. Proceeds from the auction will be placed in trust for the owners, should they ever turn up. Unclaimed properties escheated to the State include contents from safe deposit boxes and storage lockers. If no rent is paid on these safe places, the custodian is required to turn the contents over to the State Treasurer. The State Treasurer by law is custodian of unclaimed property in Illinois. In the August 20 State Fair auction, 21,500 unclaimed items will be sold in 255 lots. Classic sports memorabilia to be sold include a pair of new 1997 Air Jordan shoes and a rookie baseball card featuring Hall of Fame member Ernie Banks.