Senate Week in Review: Nov. 4 – 8, 2019

McHenry, IL. – In this report, good news for public safety in Woodstock, Harvard and Crystal Lake, completing the Nippersink Creek Aquatic Restoration Project, a visit to West Elementary School in Crystal Lake and a report on my fall Teleforum Townhall. Meanwhile, I am heading back to Springfield to conclude the fall Veto Session and I think it’s time for lawmakers to get serious about ethics reform. 

State Loan Program Helps Local Communities
The cities of Woodstock and Harvard, and the Nunda Rural Fire Protection District of Crystal Lake are the recipients of a state revolving loan program to assist communities with the purchase of fire trucks and ambulances. 

The loans were announced Nov. 6 by Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez and Illinois Finance Authority Executive Director Christopher Meister. 

Woodstock will receive a total of $550,000 under both the Fire Truck Revolving Loan Program (FTRL) and the Ambulance Revolving Loan Program (ARL).

In a joint press release from the offices of the State Fire Marshall and Illinois Finance Authority, Woodstock Fire Chief Michael Hill said, “On behalf of the citizens of Woodstock and the surrounding communities, please allow us to express our gratitude to the OSFM and IFA for helping to keep our communities safe. The interest free nature of the loan also allows us to be fiscally responsible to our taxpayers by saving approximately $50,000 in interest payments over the life of the loan.” 

Harvard is getting a $350,000 loan under the Fire Truck Revolving Loan Program. The Nunda Rural Fire Protection District will receive a $200,000 loan under the Ambulance Revolving Loan Program. 

Under the FTRL program, fire departments, fire protection districts and township fire departments may apply for up to $350,000 in low interest or no interest loans for purchase of a fire truck or brush trucks. The loans must be repaid within 20 years. 

Under the ARL program, units of local government (city, town, village, township, fire department, fire protection district) and not-for-profit ambulance service providers can apply for no interest or low interest loans of up to $200,000. These loans must be paid back in 10 years. 

A total of 23 communities will receive funds in this latest round of loans totaling $9.3 million. 

Local Efforts Protecting the Environment
Cheryl, from my office, attended the McHenry County Conservation District Ribbon cutting ceremony Nov. 5 celebrating the Nippersink Creek Aquatic Restoration Project (pictured right). 

I was unable to attend because of a prior commitment, but I want to congratulate everyone involved for their efforts to preserve the natural habitat and ensure the ecological integrity of the largest tributary leading to the Fox River. Nippersink Creek is home to 21 animals and 30 plants listed as Illinois endangered or threatened species. 

The nearly $5 million project took five years to complete and was funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Principal for a Day
I spent a special day on Nov. 7 with the students of West Elementary School in Crystal Lake as a “Principal for a Day.” It’s a program sponsored by the Illinois Principal’s Association (pictured left).

A report from the school’s Facebook page tells it all: “The senator learned about the Reading Recovery program, participated in a 1st grade restorative “circle” activity, practiced solving long division problems with 3rd graders, joined a Google Hangout with a Canadian classroom for a global read-aloud, made books with kindergarten students, and answered questions from 4th and 5th grade Wildcat student council members.”

Teleforum Townhall
A thank you to all of you who participated in my Teleforum Townhall Nov. 5. We had a good conversation and fielded a number of calls about public pension reform, crime, ethics, property taxes and the hyper-partisanship that seems to dominate our political process these days. 

Participants were also able to weigh in on a variety of topics. Here are the results of our Teleforum poll questions: 

  1. Would you favor an independent watchdog to investigate alleged ethics violations against members of the General Assembly?
    Yes         50%
    No          3%
    Undecided/No Opinion 47% 
  1. Do you favor paying higher fees and new mandated regulations to purchase and own a firearm in Illinois?
    Yes         13%
    No          70%
    Undecided/No Opinion 17% 
  1. An increasing number of communities around Illinois are devoting ever more local property tax dollars just to pay the burden of local public employee pensions. Would you favor combing the more than 650 community pension plans into one, large plan that could reduce overall taxpayer costs, with potential gains in value?
    Yes         48%
    No          24%
    Undecided/No Opinion 27% 
  1. When you purchase a car or truck, you pay a local and state sales tax. This year, legislation was passed to impose a second tax on that same vehicle – if it’s over $10,000 in value – when you trade it in. Is this a good idea to generate revenue for the state, or would you favor a repeal?
    Revenue generator        16%
    Favor repeal             72%
    Undecided/No Opinion     12% 
  1. Vaping has become a popular alternative to smoking tobacco. Some people use it to wean themselves off tobacco. However, there are concerns that vaping has become an easy opening to children and young adults to begin smoking. Would you be in favor of banning flavored vaping products?
    Yes         57%
    No          26%
    Undecided/No Opinion 17% 

Second Week of Veto Session
Senators and Representatives return to the Capitol Nov. 12 through Nov. 14 for the second and final week of the fall Veto Session. Both chambers have scheduled nearly two dozen committee hearings on a variety of issues including, red light cameras, minimum wage, education, public health, taxes and the environment. 

Since the summer, the hottest issue before lawmakers is ethics reform. There are several legislative proposals introduced since well-publicized allegations and indictments involving corruption began making news. Those measures remain on the front burner, and maybe the number one action item. 

With the second week of the fall Veto Session scheduled for Nov. 12–14, there’s still time to openly discuss and debate the ethics reform proposals introduced in recent weeks. Among the proposals, is a Senate Republican measure, Senate Bill 2297, which is a serious effort addressing ethical shortcomings at the Capitol. 

Under SB 2297, the Legislative Inspector General (LIG) would have the authority to investigate complaints against legislators and issue subpoenas without approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC), a panel of Senate and House members. Taking politicians out of the equation gives the LIG the independence necessary to do his or her job. 

This dynamic reform ends the “fox guarding the henhouse” status of the current process, when it comes to investigating allegations of wrongdoing. It gives the Legislative Inspector General true watchdog authority. 


Craig Wilcox

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