State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) has been chosen to fill a vacancy on a bipartisan reforms working group that is discussing fundamental changes in how Illinois does business. It is the goal of the group to bring forward agreed changes that can become part of a full compromise budget package for Fiscal Year 2017.

Budget and reform working groups have been meeting for months behind the scenes, and the budget groups helped create the framework that ultimately led to the stopgap plan that funded K-12 Education for all of Fiscal Year 2017 and six months of bridge funding for other essential service areas. With the resignation earlier this week of Ron Sandack, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin asked Breen to step in, “where he will be leveraging years of legal service and municipal government experience.”

A first-term member of the General Assembly, Breen is a constitutional attorney and former village board member and interim mayor of Lombard. In response to his selection, Breen said he is pleased to be joining the group that will shape policy to address many of Illinois’ biggest issues. “It is an honor to be chosen by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin for this very important committee,” said Breen. “We’ve got to end the waste and abuse in our state government and implement job-creating policies, so that we can grow the Illinois economy and ensure the long-term financial stability of our state. I look forward to working with my colleagues from across the aisle on this vital initiative.”

The bipartisan group of eight lawmakers—four Republican members and four Democrat members—will continue to meet throughout the summer and fall to discuss and reach agreement on reforms.
Legislation sponsored by State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) that improves outcomes for children in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was signed into law on Friday by Governor Bruce Rauner.

“When children are in a situation where temporary guardianship or temporary custody must be arranged, DCFS is supposed to make a reasonable effort to identify and locate a relative who is able and willing to care for the child who needs placement,” said Breen. “Unfortunately, courts often receive incomplete information about extended family members. Senate Bill 2512 requires the courts to ask parents or guardians for all known names, addresses and phone numbers of adult relatives that could possibly care for the child. It’s common sense legislation that will make a real difference in the lives of children in crisis.”

A bipartisan measure, Breen worked with Democrat Senator Heather Steans of Chicago to ensure unanimous passage of the bill in the House of Representatives. “In these types of situations, the well-being of the child is paramount,” Breen said. “Every effort must be made to ensure the child is placed with his or her family and not in a shelter, if at all possible.”

On Monday night, the Legislative Advisory Council I created with Senator Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) met as a Committee of the Whole to discuss the stopgap budget approved by the General Assembly and signed into law on June 30. More than 30 volunteer members of the council attended the meeting, which was held at the Elmhurst Library. In addition to our discussion about the stopgap measure and the need for a full, balanced FY17 budget along with reforms that will grow the Illinois economy, our office interns each presented prepared summaries about the individual bills that comprised the stopgap agreement.

Senator Nybo and I agreed that the stopgap measure was far from perfect, but that it will serve as a necessary bridge while negotiations continue about essential state service areas of the FY17 budget. We were in complete agreement that funding K-12 Education for a full year and not providing money for another Chicago bailout were key successes for Republicans.

In addition to our large group meetings, committees within the council include Education, Health and Human Services, Energy and Environment, Seniors and Veterans, State Finances and Economic Growth, Transportation, and Business and Economic Expansion. These committees meet regularly to discuss issues of importance, to review pending legislation, and to offer ideas for new legislative initiatives. New committee members who are at least 18 years of age and who live within the boundaries of Illinois House District 48 or Illinois Senate District 24 are always welcome to apply. For more information or to submit a membership application, contact my office at (630) 403-8135, or email me through the web form located at reppeterbreen.org.

Governor Signs Breen Bill that Improves Access to Human Trafficking Hotline Information
Bipartisan legislation I sponsored along with Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) was signed into law this week by Governor Bruce Rauner. SB 2286, now known as P.A. 99-0565, includes hotels and motels in the list of locations where information about the Human Trafficking Hotline must be prominently placed. By requiring that these notices be posted at all hotels and motels, employees will have quick access to assistance when they believe a trafficking situation is taking place. 

Breen Co-Sponsors Resolution to Remove Auditor General for Cause
Questions have multiplied concerning the campaign fund of former State Representative Frank Mautino. After his appointment to the post of Illinois Auditor General in late 2015, the former lawmaker and his campaign fund were placed under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury. Charges against Mautino include misappropriation of campaign funds, ethical concerns and potential conflicts of interest. Citing the activities of himself and his counsel before the grand jury, Mautino has refused to respond to questions from the General Assembly relating to the investigation and his fitness to remain in office.

Last week I joined more than 20 lawmakers in co-sponsoring HJR 158, which calls for Mautino’s removal. While he is serving a ten-year term that is not set to expire until December 31, 2025, Mautino can be removed by a vote of three-fifths of the members of both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly for cause.

High School Students to Stop Taking PARCC Tests
The State Board of Education announced on Monday, July 11 that beginning in the spring of 2017, high school students would no longer have to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Instead, the State will subsidize and supervise the administration of a statewide SAT college entrance exam in spring 2017. Students in 11th grade will take the SAT. The SAT is administered according to an established nationwide protocol and its results are published in numbers that are relatively accessible and familiar to students and educators. SAT tests will be administered in compliance with the State law evaluating high school student body performance and progress. Students in grades 3 through 8 will continue to take separate PARCC tests geared to their age groups. 

State of Illinois Completes Rollout of New Job Opportunity for Unemployed Illinoisans
Illinois JobLink is a resume-posting platform operated by the Department of Employment Security (IDES) that is open to persons seeking employment in Illinois. Under a new policy going into effect on Sunday, July 17, persons filing for Illinois unemployment benefits after being laid off are going to be asked to fill out and post their resumes on Illinois Job Link as a condition of completing their application for benefits.

The Department is aware that some of the people who need to file for benefits will have some questions about how to complete the JobLink process and complete a resume. The JobLink home page can be found here. In past years, nearly 60% of Illinois unemployment benefit filings did not include a work history or resume, despite the importance of these documents to potential employers. IDES believes that linking JobLink resume filing with unemployment benefits will speed up the hiring of unemployed persons who may have work experience and credentials of which they are not fully aware, and will reduce unemployment by increasing publicly posted information about the Illinois residents who are motivated to find a job.

New I-Refi Program from IHDA will Help Some Under-Water Homeowners
The program, from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), is aimed at homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the home itself is worth. Eligible homeowners, starting August 1, will be invited to apply for admission to the “Hardest Hit” program. Residents and families helped by the program could see a reduction in the amount of unpaid equity remaining on their mortgages. A mortgage financing data tracker, CoreLogic, reports that approximately 14% of all Illinois home mortgages are currently underwater.

The Illinois program is being backed by $45.7 million in U.S. Treasury funding. It is projected that 1,800 homeowner applicants will successfully apply for admission to the program and will get debt-reduction assistance of approximately $25,000 per home. Applicants to the program, which is targeted towards modest and middle-class homes in challenged geographic areas, will be granted a maximum of $50,000 in debt-reduction assistance. The assistance will be credited towards the debt owed on a new, private-sector 30-year mortgage. A list of 25 participating mortgage-finance lenders has been mobilized by IHDA. These firms will refinance the homes of participating mortgagors at market rates.

To qualify, applicants must owe at least 10% more than the value of their home, up to $50,000. Despite being under water, they must have been current on making mortgage payments for at least the past 12 months and must live in the home. Household income eligibility is determined by a sliding scale keyed towards the number of persons in the household and the geographic location of the household. The maximum purchase price of the home is also one of the variables used to gauge overall potential eligibility for admission to the program.
Bipartisan legislation sponsored by State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) that increases the reach of the Illinois Human Trafficking Hotline was signed into law today by Governor Bruce Rauner. SB 2286 adds employees of hotels and motels to the list of those who are required to have access to prominently placed notices about the Human Trafficking Hotline.

“By requiring that these notices be posted at all hotels and motels in view of their employees, these individuals who are especially susceptible to being trafficked will have quick access to assistance when either they themselves or a coworker are suffering in a trafficking situation,” said Breen. “It was my pleasure to work with the Democrat Senate sponsor of this bill to ensure its unanimous passage in the House.”

The amended law requires that the notices be at least 8 ½ inches by 11 inches in size with a text font no smaller than 16-point. The text must state the following:

If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave, whether it is commercial sex, housework, farm work, construction, factory, retail, or restaurant work, or any other activity, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 to access help and services.

Victims of slavery and human trafficking are protected under United States and Illinois law. The hotline is:
    • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
    • Toll-free. 
    • Operated by nonprofit nongovernmental organizations. 
    • Anonymous and confidential. 
    • Accessible in more than 160 languages. 
    • Able to provide help, referral to services, training, and general information.
On the last day of June, the final day of our state’s fiscal year, a deal was cut to fund K-12 education for the next school year and to fund critical state services until after the Fall elections. But a month before, when Speaker Michael Madigan sent the General Assembly home on May 31, our two sides couldn’t have been farther apart.

Compared to the bedlam of the end of regular session in May, the General Assembly was positively subdued on June 30. Those last few days of May featured the supermajority ramming through a budget that would have spent roughly $40 billion, even though the state is only expected to take in $33 billion in taxes. On top of the $7 billion hole that budget would have ripped in our backlog of unpaid bills, Speaker Madigan only allowed members one hour to read that 500-page measure before debating and voting on it.

And in those final days of May, Democratic leaders said that any tough votes on budget and reform would be put off until after the November elections. In response, on May 31, Gov. Rauner urged the General Assembly to pass a stopgap funding measure to keep the state operating through the November elections and to pass a K-12 school funding measure to ensure that schools would open on time in the Fall. His proposal was summarily rejected.

Why the change? Well, you and other citizens of Illinois got mad, and got active.

After massive public uproar, House and Senate members forced their legislative leaders back to the negotiating table to reach an agreement. The compromise is not perfect—nowhere near it—nor is it a full budget. There are significant spending reductions, including a freeze on lawmaker pay, but the economic and governmental reforms we need to turn Illinois around were put off, until after the election. There was some movement on pension reform, but again, the leaders of the supermajority in the legislature have pushed back any detail work to November.

I’ve read a lot of hyperbole since the deal was enacted, including much criticism. Those critics are correct that the General Assembly should have stayed until its work was done: to enact a full balanced budget and substantial reforms, to turn around our economy and fix our government.

But despite this being a partial measure, it is progress. First, “We the People” were heard by the members of the General Assembly, and the majority party in the legislature finally allowed a compromise measure to be voted on by all the members. Second, kids will be able to attend school in the Fall, and critical state services will be maintained. Third and finally, for the first time in a while, this November’s elections in Illinois may be about real policy and issues, not personalities.

It looks like we’re finally going to have a robust, substantive debate on where the state should go—and how best to get there. The only thing holding Illinois back from the kind of economic success being experienced by our neighbor states in the Midwest is our broken state government. May the best plan win!
The stopgap State budget, enacted and signed into law on Thursday, June 30 in Springfield provides a full 12 months of funding for Illinois K-12 public schools. This plan will fully fund the foundation level for the first time in many years, ending the unfair practice of proration and will ensure that all school districts get at least as much funding from the State as they received last year. Every school district within the boundaries of District 48 will see an increase in funding.

The school aid includes both general State aid (GSA) and a series of categorical grants provided to many school districts to cover parts of the costs of mandates imposed by the State and other costs of school district operation. In addition, the FY17 K-12 education bill appropriated $361 million over what was distributed last year in FY16 for the 2015-16 school year. It also allocates $250 million for a new statewide equity grant that will be distributed to school districts based on the State Board of Education’s low income grant formula. The plan also includes a $75 million increase for early childhood education. It does not include a state bailout of Chicago Public Schools.

This chart illustrates the estimated increase in funding that District 48 schools will receive for 2016-2017:

In the final hours of Fiscal Year 2016, Republican and Democrat lawmakers came together and approved a package of bills that funds K-12 education at record-high levels for all of FY17, provides for six months of funding for all other key budget areas, and freezes lawmaker pay.

SB 2047, approved in a 105-4 vote, includes:
  • Six-month bridge funding
    • $1 billion for higher education, including Monetary Assistance Program grants (on top of the $600 million already approved for higher education through a stopgap measure in the spring)
    • $729 million for critical State government operations (IL Department of Transportation, mental health centers, prisons, veterans homes)
    • $701 million for critical human services not currently paid through consent decrees or court orders
    • $8.4 billion to allow Illinois to take full advantage of matching federal funds
    • $53.7 billion for the continuation of road/bridge projects, school construction grants and local water/sewer improvements, debt service payments and lottery payouts
  • The largest 12-month allocation toward K-12 education in Illinois history, including per-pupil funding increases for all of the school districts headquartered in the 48th District.
This is not a perfect plan. In fact, there are parts of this comprehensive agreement that I do not like. However, this was a negotiation, and we met in the middle to allow every school in Illinois to open on time in the fall, to provide bridge funding to the charitable agencies that serve Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens, and to freeze pay for lawmakers.

In particular, K-12 education will be funded in FY17 at the highest level in our state’s history. For the first time in seven years, the “funding formula” will not be prorated. This means that each of our schoolchildren will receive 100% of the funds promised to them under state law. Most importantly, this measure removes children from the crossfire of the budget and reform negotiations, which Democrat legislative leaders have put on hold until after the November elections.

Lawmakers will now return to their home districts until after the election. Per the House calendar, we will return to Springfield on November 15 for the Fall Veto Session. While I don’t agree with going home without a full-year budget and necessary reform, we’ve been promised that the budget and reform working groups will continue to meet and work toward a full-year balanced budget that provides for all Illinois services through June 30, 2017.

District 48 Schools to Receive Record-High Funding in FY17
In addition to ensuring that every Illinois School District to open on time in the fall, with record-high levels of funding, every District 48 School District will see an increase in funding for the 2016-2017 school year. The chart below shows an estimate of how each of the school districts headquartered in our District will benefit:
Governor Signs Enhancement to Open Meetings Act to Help Reform Efforts
I served as Chief House Co-Sponsor for a new State law that will require that any and all available minutes and verbatim recordings of meetings closed to the public be made available to a elected officials on a public body. The new law grants a level playing field to access to confidential board-of-directors information to all members of the body’s board of directors. This is significant when a newly chosen member or members have been chosen as part of a reform effort aimed at questionable or improper actions affiliated with the previous board. There are some places in our state where elected officials are being denied access to these records!

HB 4630 was approved unanimously by both houses of the General Assembly this spring. It was inspired by bad actions by several local government units to withhold records from reform members of local government boards—both in the Chicagoland area and in other parts of the state. Governor Rauner signed the bill into law on Thursday, June 30 as P.A. 99-515.