Legislative Update: July 20, 2016

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.