Dear Neighbors,
Last week Governor Bruce Rauner visited Glenbard East High School in Lombard for a meeting with a group of 75 students. I was impressed with the maturity shown by the students and the level of intelligence behind the questions they asked. After the meeting, the Governor held a press conference, where he announced his support of new legislation that reduces unfunded mandates on school districts.

Illinois school districts have been forced to comply with nearly 150 unfunded mandates in the past 25 years, with the General Assembly enacting more than 135 unfunded mandates in the last 15 years. These unfunded mandates drive up property taxes, and as legislators, we need to be doing everything we can to provide taxpayers with relief. People in the district continue to leave the state because they cannot afford the astronomical taxes. I was glad to hear the Governor providing full support to our initiatives to ease that tax burden.

HB 6164 has the potential to save Illinois public schools more than $200 million through mandate relief. The legislation eliminates restrictions on third-party contracting, which eases limitations and financial pressures on school districts. This type of mandate relief is already provided to Chicago Public Schools, and this legislation extends this relief to every school district in Illinois. In addition, it eases some curriculum mandates imposed from Springfield on local districts.

Breen Speaks with Boy Scout Group
On Saturday, I was honored to help a great group of Boy Scouts earn their Citizenship in the Community merit badge at the 19th annual Potawatomi Trails Merit Badge University. We covered topics from how I became a state representative to how one of my bills (SB90) would not have become law without me in the General Assembly. My experiences as a Boy Scout were fundamental to my entrance into politics and public service. I was highly impressed by the character and engagement of these young men and look forward to them doing great things with their lives.

Breen Files Comprehensive 2016 Legislative Agenda
January and February are busy months for lawmakers, as this is the period of time each year when we draft and file our primary bills for the legislative year. My priorities remain taxpayer-focused, and I have once again filed a comprehensive agenda that seeks to provide taxpayers with property tax relief, pension reform, and improved government transparency. My 2016 agenda includes the following bills:
  • HB 5682: Reduces the fees associated with a review of red light camera infractions by motorists. 
  • HB 5683: Adds a layer of fairness to the timeframe during which citizens who file Open Meetings Act grievances with the IL Attorney General’s office can seek a remedy.
  • HB 5684: Addresses the common practice of “pension spiking” for employees who are members of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, by stating that pay raises in excess of 6% during an employee’s final year will not be considered “pensionable income.”
  • HB 5685: Prohibits the Secretary of State from imposing a delinquent registration renewal fee when the registered owner of a vehicle has not been provided with postage mail or email notice of the date a registration is set to expire.
  • HB 5686: Amends and clarifies the IL Anatomical Gift Act as it relates to tissue and body parts that can be legally donated or sold, by expending the definition of “decedent” to include the deceased fetus or unborn child, and expressly prohibits the donation or sale of aborted fetuses and fetal tissue.
  • HB 5812: Makes technical changes to the Condominium and Common Interest Community Ombudsperson Act that will save money, improve service and streamline processes.
  • HB 5930: Transfers responsibility for monitoring employment progress of women and minorities in the workforce to the Department of Labor to eliminate a duplicative service and save money.
  • HR 1029: A resolution honoring the life and service of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Breen Talks with Students from Jackson Middle School
On Monday, it was a great privilege to give a talk about government and politics to the 7th grade students at Jackson Middle School. We covered everything from the state budget, to socialism, to Donald Trump. I was very impressed with their knowledge of current events.

As your voice in Springfield, I’m working to make our state and our communities the best they can be. If you have any questions or concerns or would like to invite me to speak to a group in the 48th District, please contact my office at (630) 403-8135, or visit reppeterbreen.org and click the contact button.
State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) has filed a resolution in the Illinois House of Representatives paying tribute to the life and legacy of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away on February 13, after serving almost 30 years on the nation’s highest court.

“Justice Scalia was the most influential Supreme Court justice of this generation,” said Breen, who is also a practicing constitutional attorney. “Instead of imposing his political spin on our Constitution and laws, Justice Scalia read them as they were written, by the people’s elected legislators. He single-handedly turned the tide of American legal thought, re-establishing the idea that judges are supposed to interpret laws, not make them. He believed that the outcome of a case shouldn’t depend on the subjective politics of the particular judge but on the objective text of the law at issue. Justice Scalia fought tirelessly to return the judicial branch to its proper role in our Constitutional system.”

Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey and earned his bachelor’s degree at Georgetown and his law degree from Harvard. He taught at the University of Chicago Law School from 1977 until 1981, when he became the pioneer faculty advisor to the Federalist Society. Scalia was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1982 and to the Supreme Court in 1986.

“I’m honored by the support of my colleagues for this resolution, especially the support of House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who agreed to serve as the first chief co-sponsor of the measure,” said Breen.
State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) joined Governor Bruce Rauner, Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti and other lawmakers today at Glenbard East High School, in Lombard, for the unveiling of new legislation that could save Illinois public schools more than $200 million through unfunded mandate relief.

“Unfunded mandates drive up property taxes, and as legislators, we need to be doing everything we can to provide taxpayers with relief,” said Breen, who represents Illinois’ 48th

District, in which Glenbard East is located. “It was wonderful that the Governor chose Glenbard East as the backdrop for today’s announcement. I hear regularly from local taxpayers who simply cannot afford the astronomical taxes they must pay, and I’m pleased to see the Governor providing full support to our initiatives to ease that tax burden.”

Illinois school districts have been forced to comply with nearly 150 unfunded mandates in the past 25 years, with the General Assembly enacting more than 135 unfunded mandates in the last 15 years.

“Providing districts with this relief costs taxpayers absolutely nothing, but will save districts millions,” Rauner said. “By freeing districts from these costly mandates, schools will have more flexibility to invest their resources in classrooms and teachers. It’s a win for students, parents, districts and taxpayers.”

The legislation eliminates restrictions on third-party contracting, which eases limitations and financial pressures on school districts. This type of mandate relief is already provided to Chicago Public Schools and this legislation extends this relief to every school district in Illinois. In addition, it eases some curriculum mandates imposed from Springfield on local districts.

School mandate relief reflects several proposals from the Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force. "School district unfunded mandates drive up property taxes and limit local control," Sanguinetti said. "As a mother of three, I think local school districts and parents should be deciding what's best for our children, not Springfield. We need to give the power and flexibility back to local communities and parents, and this bill does just that."
President Obama gave an address to the General Assembly last week, nine years to the day in 2007 he announced his candidacy for president, on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield. The speech was what some called the beginning of his “farewell tour,” and his tone was much different than we’re used to hearing from him.

After the president finished, I turned to one of my colleagues and said, “I could’ve given 90% of that speech.” Apart from a brief recounting of specific policy prescriptions, the speech was about the corrupting influence of special interests in our political life: how the establishment negotiates sweetheart deals for itself, deals that we all know about but feel powerless to stop. The disparate treatment of the politically connected, without anchor in anything but raw power, has hardened our positions and stripped away the ground for compromise. If neither side stands for anything of substance, there’s no place to “meet in the middle,” because there is no “middle.”

Across the country, this feeling is causing a divide within and throughout our existing political party structure. The dividing is less about philosophical labels like “conservative” versus “liberal” and more about the basic concepts of establishment versus reform.

For the rest of the day on Wednesday, my Democratic colleagues were positively glowing—there was hope in the air, even joy. We were going to have a “new kind of politics” in Springfield .… then came Thursday.

On Thursday morning, House Speaker Mike Madigan jammed a highly controversial bill through committee. If passed, the bill would result in billions in salary increases for state workers, without any regard for how to pay for them. Our state workers are the best paid in the nation, and with the incredible pressures on families in Illinois—and with no state budget—it’s not time to be talking about massive raises.

This isn’t a new bill, either: it is a refiling of the most heavily contested bill we faced last year. Floor debate on that bill went on for hours, and it was vicious. The Governor vetoed the bill before, and there’s no reason to think he won’t veto it again. The timing was odd, unless you’re following the politics. We’re coming up on the March 15 Primary Election, and Speaker Madigan wants that bill voted on in time to influence a number of key primaries across the state—both Democrat and Republican.

I happened to be in the committee where the bill was considered. With President Obama’s speech fresh in mind, I vigorously questioned the lobbyist presenting the bill. Despite the flowery language he used to describe the measure, the whole thing was a clear power grab. You can listen to my committee comments here. Yesterday, as expected, the bill was rushed to the floor, and I again questioned the measure and opposed it. You can watch the video of the floor debate here.

We’re facing a budget crisis, a jobs crisis, and at heart, a leadership crisis. In political life, you always ask whether something is a “70% or 80% approval issue”–in other words, if put to a vote of the public at large, would 70 or 80% or more support the policy? In this seemingly intractable political crisis, maybe the key to finding the “70% or 80%” way forward can be found by asking a different question: not which policy gives a “win” in the traditional Republican versus Democrat framework, but does the policy promote reform, or the stagnant, stale, and corrupt status quo?

PS—You’re seeing a microcosm of the reform versus establishment debate locally, at the College of DuPage. Congratulations to David Olsen, who was chosen to fill the vacant 7th trustee position on the COD board. David will bring a fresh perspective and a proven commitment to open, transparent government to the College. At only 27 years old, David is already Deputy Mayor of Downers Grove, and while in school at U of I, he was student body president, so he’ll connect well with the students at COD. He’s a great pick to break the logjam and protect taxpayers.

This week, the majority re-presented a bill that would strip the power to negotiate effective union contracts away from democratically elected officials into the hands of unelected bureaucrats.

The measure was heard this week in the Illinois House’s Labor & Commerce Committee. House Bill 580 (Amendment #2) is a rehash of last year’s SB 1229, which passed on a party-line vote and was vetoed by Governor Rauner. A veto override attempt by the Democratic supermajority in the House failed in September.

“Illinois taxpayers are represented in contract negotiations by their elected representatives. HB 580 would reverse the will of the people and strip from our democratically elected Governor the ability to work for a union agreement that meets the needs of all Illinoisans,” said Breen, who sits on the Labor & Commerce Committee.

During the hearing on the amendment, Breen questioned Michael Newman, deputy director of AFSCME Council 31, the state’s largest government employee union, which is pushing the bill. Breen focused his comments on the true intent of the amendment and the effects it would have on taxpayers. You can listen to Breen’s questioning by clicking on the image above.

Breen also spoke strongly against the original bill during the September veto override attempt. You can watch his floor comments from that debate here.
Due to the continued budget stalemate, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has now suspended the mailing of vehicle emissions test notices. While normally an Illinois emissions “pass” is required for renewal, Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that he will temporarily allow license plate renewals for vehicle owners who have not yet taken the IEPA emissions test, citing the unfair burden to Illinois citizens.

That’s a great step, but we still need to fix this process. To that end, yesterday, I refiled my bill to put an end to “late fees” for license plate renewals, unless folks first get notice that their renewal is due. The bill was bottled up in the Rules Committee last year, but I hope that we’ll be able to get the bill moving this year. Please click on the link if you’d like to read my House Bill 5685. The budget impasse is no excuse to charge Illinoisans extra for their license plate renewals.

President Obama Addresses General Assembly
Yesterday, President Obama addressed a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate in an hour-long speech. It was a bipartisan call for civil discourse and compromise, which was welcome: I observed afterward that I could have delivered 90% of the President’s talk. I was particularly pleased to hear the President speak in favor of redistricting reform, or “fair maps.” He criticized today’s process where technology allows the party in power to “precision-draw” districts to protect incumbents and pack the other party’s voters into as few districts as possible. Here’s the thing: that same technology can be used to draw fair, nonpartisan maps.

“Once the next census rolls around and we have the most up-to-date picture of America’s populations, we should change the way our districts are drawn,” he said. “In America, the politicians should not pick their voters. Voters should pick their politicians.” I fully agree with this stance.

My hope is that the President’s call for engagement will bring hesitant lawmakers back to the negotiating table to work on our state’s biggest problems, especially with regard to the approval and enactment of a balanced budget.

Bill to Reform State Procurement Process
Last week, I co-sponsored important legislation that would overhaul Illinois’ procurement practices. It is estimated that the reforms included in HB 4644 could save the State of Illinois up to $514 million per year.

The reform package would provide both the State as well as individual agencies increased flexibility and efficiencies in purchasing and procurement thus increasing the opportunities for savings. This includes the creation of a pool of pre-qualified vendors for supplies and services, as well as allowing State and local governments to enter into purchasing consortiums in hopes of leveraging buying power. In addition, it would carve out procurement code exemptions for an array of instances including service contracts, trade shows and units of higher education.

Looking Forward
Today is the deadline for the filing of bills to be heard during the 2016 legislative session. We’re told this is going to be a tough session, where “nothing will move.” To that end, I have introduced six focused bills intended to draw bipartisan support—including the license plate renewal fee bill I mentioned above—that I’ll tell you about in the coming weeks.
Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) was recognized this week by the Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA) for his commitment to job creation in Illinois.

The Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA) released its first legislative scorecard yesterday, which ranks legislators based on their voting records on 12 bills in 2015. Breen’s voting record earned him a perfect 100%.

“Businesses, especially our manufacturers, are fleeing Illinois and taking their jobs with them,” said Breen. “By supporting pro-business legislation, we are trying to keep those job creators in Illinois and also attract new businesses to grow our economy.”

The TMA Legislative Scorecard found that in 2015 only 42% of Illinois House members and 39% of the Illinois Senate could be identified as pro-manufacturing.

“The Technology and Manufacturing Association is particularly impressed with freshman State Representative Peter Breen,” said TMA President Steven Rauschenberger. “Employment is the route to Illinois’ middle class, and manufacturing is one of our advantages nationally. It is gratifying to see a new class of legislators who recognize that being supportive of business helps grow jobs and strengthen families.”
This past week, the governor delivered his annual “State of the State” address. Last year, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s focus was on an agenda to turn around Illinois. For the new year, he’s refocusing that “turnaround” agenda specifically on reforms to help businesses create jobs and to clean up government. For 2016, he’s also introduced a “transformation agenda,” which talks about ways to make Illinois government more effective and efficient.

While some of these transformation items won’t make the front page of the morning paper, they will have a significant effect on how government services are delivered and at what cost. For instance, buying things for state government takes too long and costs too much. Simple reforms to how we purchase products and services for the state will save us over $500 million per year. Other states and private companies have made these changes, as part of “procurement reform,” and succeeded in both lowering the price paid for goods and services and lowering the cost of the process of buying itself.

The governor is also seeking to reform our Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which up to now has been a bloated, slow bureaucracy. This is one place where all of us want to see the governor use his experience and contacts in the business world, to draw companies to invest and grow in Illinois instead of other states or countries. The governor is also looking to bring our technology practices into the 21st Century, and he has created a “Department of Innovation and Technology” to do so. Without a robust technology infrastructure that works, time and money is wasted on maintaining ancient machines and systems, instead of delivering necessary services and information to the people.

A top priority of mine is looking at how we deliver services to “the least of these,” those who are disabled or otherwise disadvantaged through no fault of their own. In the human services area, we have multiple agencies and programs doing the same thing, causing unnecessary duplication and increasing cost. In some agencies and programs, too much money goes to administration and not enough to direct service for people in need. Finally, even when the intervention reaches a needy person, that intervention may not be the most successful or effective way to assist them. What was “conventional wisdom” 30 or 40 years ago may not be best today, particularly in the healthcare field. Another galling example is that we keep open large institutions for the disabled because of political pressure, instead of serving disabled folks in smaller, more intimate group homes, which are often more effective and much less expensive.

All this is happening at a time when the charities that provide the best service to the less fortunate—and do so much cheaper than the state can—are being forced out of business, because the state won’t pay its bills. At this time of great need, it’s a sin how much money intended for helping people is misspent by the state government.

A substantial number of these reforms should be easy, bipartisan issues. But there’s a lot of tension in the air in Springfield, and we’re told that very few, if any, bills will pass the General Assembly this year. I’m doing what I can to bridge that divide, both in cosponsoring and working on bills offered by my Democratic colleagues and in just meeting folks over a quiet cup of coffee to figure out where we can reach common ground. But it’s an election year—a particularly unique, contentious election year—so we’ll see.

It’s my hope that the General Assembly will come together, to reform our state and do the work of governing. If that can’t happen, then I hope that the upcoming elections focus on the serious problems facing Illinois, and how each candidate will either help or hinder the solutions to those problems. One way or the other, we need to move forward and fix our state.