In the coming days my 2015-2016 Legislative Report should land in District 48 mailboxes. This document provides citizens with an in-depth look at the last year and a half of activity in Springfield, and an overview of legislation I have passed so far during my first term in the General Assembly.

A legislative survey is included in this mailing, and I hope you will take the time to fill it out and return it to my Lombard office. The survey is also available on line at this link. I will read every survey, so I’d appreciate hearing from you.

Governor Signs Several Key Breen Bills into Law
During the summer months, the Governor takes action on the hundreds of bills that were approved during the previous spring legislative session. I was successful this year in passing eight bills, each of which will have a positive impact on the people of the 48th Legislative District. These new laws include: 
  • HB 5684 (Public Act 99-0646): Curbs “pension spiking” for local government employees who are part of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF). Pension spiking occurs when longtime public employees who have accrued large balances of unused sick and vacation time are allowed to transfer those days into pre-retirement cash payments. The new law requires that, before any potential pension spiking payment can even be considered, a local unit of government must provide a full public disclosure of exactly how a retiring employee’s salary would be affected by the payment. 
  • HB 5683 (Public Act 99-0714): Closes a loophole in the Open Meetings Act (OMA) and improves government transparency by extending the timeframe for citizens to file suit when they believe an OMA violation has occurred. It is common practice for a citizen who believes an OMA infraction has taken place to first contact the Attorney General’s office for an opinion. If the AG’s investigation into the allegation takes more than 60 days, and a non-binding opinion is issued, the period of time for a suit to be filed will have expired. This new law ensures that citizens can go to court to seek justice for 60 days after the decision by the AG’s office is issued.
  • SB 2174 (Public Act 99-0695): Requires appointed members of government boards of public universities and colleges to complete professional development and leadership training. Appointed board members will have to show proof of taking at least four hours of training within two years of beginning their service, and within every two years of service thereafter. 
  • HB 5930 (Public Act 99-0652): Improves efficiency and reduces cost by allowing electronic communication instead of requiring mailed paper correspondence between an employer and the state of Illinois to check the license of a certified nurse’s aide. 
  • SB 2286 (Public Act 99-0565): Expands our current laws as they relate to posting requirements for our state’s human trafficking hotline. SB 2286 would ensure that notices would be posted to ensure that employees of hotels and motels have the resources they need to get them out of a trafficking situation.
  • SB 2512 (Public Act 99-0625): Improves outcomes for kids in the Department of Children and Family Service’s care to keep those kids out of shelters and in family homes, by requiring judges to ask parents/guardians to provide the court with a list of all known names, addresses, and telephone numbers of living adult relatives who could possibly care for the child who requires placement.
  • SB 2524 (Public Act 99-0659): Amends the Illinois Identification Card Act to remove the current $10 fee for a first state identification card for children who are wards of the state. These kids are already our state’s responsibility, and proper identification will help them better participate in society.
  • SB 3047 (Public Act 99-0858): Ensures the proper tax treatment of innovative cancer treatments, to keep them taxed at the same 1% rate as prescription drugs and other medical devices, instead of the much higher consumer product tax rate. SB 3047 specifically protects cancer treatments recognized by the FDA as “Class III” medical devices.
Illinois Supreme Court Boots Fair Maps Proposal from November Ballot
In a 4-3 vote on Thursday, Illinois’ highest court affirmed a ruling by a Cook County judge that a voter referendum seeking to change how the state draws legislative district maps was unconstitutional. With no other judicial recourse available, the issue will not appear on the November ballot. The 4-3 vote by the justices fell along party lines.

Today, politicians from the majority party draw maps that favor incumbents from their party and all but guarantee the continuation of their majority status. The citizen-led and bipartisan Independent Maps coalition gathered more than 563,000 signatures on petitions seeking a fair and non-political process, calling for an 11-member commission to be in charge of drawing maps.

Chief Justice Rita Garman and Justice Robert Thomas issued stinging statements that articulated their dissent of the decision. Here are excerpts from both statements:

Justice Thomas
“The Illinois constitution is meant to prevent tyranny, not to enshrine it.”

“Today a muzzle has been placed on the people of this State, and their voices supplanted with judicial fiat. The whimper you hear is democracy stifled. I join that muted chorus of dissent."

"When the Reporter of Decisions sends out the majority's disposition, he should include a bright orange warning sticker for readers to paste over Article XIV, Section 3, of their personal copies of the 1970 Constitution reading, ‘Out of Service.’”

Chief Justice Garman
"I write separately to express my concern with the impact of the majority’s conclusion on the future of redistricting in Illinois. Article XIV, section 3, was included in our constitution to provide the people of this state with the power to act in situations where it is against the legislature’s self-interest to do so. Redistricting is clearly such an issue. Those elected have an incentive to draw maps that will help them remain in office."

You can read the ruling here.

Breen to Host Free Property Tax Forum in September
If you went into sticker shock when you opened your most recent tax bill, you are not alone. On Saturday, September 24, I’m inviting residents of the 48th District to join me for a free property tax seminar, aimed at helping citizens better understand their tax bill while learning how to appeal a property tax over-assessment. The session will take place from 9:30 AM until 11:00 AM in the Clayton Room at the Glen Ellyn Civics Center, 535 Duane Street, in Glen Ellyn. At the event, I’ll be joined by Milton Township Assessor Chris E. LeVan and York Township Assessor Deanna Wilkins. Folks who attend will gain a better understanding of an often misunderstood process, along with learning about the tools you need to challenge your assessment, if it is too high. RSVPs are appreciated for this event. To RSVP please contact my office at (630) 403-8135.

ILHEAP to Accept Applications for Low Income Energy Assistance Program
The state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will begin accepting applications for winter heating assistance for seniors and people with disabilities on September 1. LIHEAP and the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) program are funded as part of the stopgap funding plan signed into law by Governor Rauner. LIHEAP is a state and federally funded energy assistance program for low-income families, in which heating bill payments are made on behalf of households. Applications are processed through a network of 35 local administering agencies around the state. These agencies will accept applications on a first-come, first-served basis. Residents must bring all required documentation when applying for assistance, including: 
  • Proof of gross income from all household members for the 30-day income period beginning with the date of the application.
  • A copy of their current heat and electric bills issued within the last 30 days (if they pay for their energy directly). 
  • A copy of their rental agreement (if they are renting) showing that utilities are included, the monthly rental amount and landlord contact information. 
  • Proof of Social Security numbers for all household members. 
  • Proof that their household received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD); or other benefits, such as Medical Eligibility or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), if receiving assistance from the Illinois Department of Human Services. 
A single-person household can qualify with a monthly income of up to $1,485; a two-person household up to $2,003; a family of three can earn up to $2,520; and a family of four can earn up to $3,038. For a complete listing of LIHEAP’s local administering agencies and additional information about the program, go to www.liheapIllinois.com, or call the energy assistance toll-free hotline at (877) 411-WARM.

Governor Signs Bills Honoring Gold Star Families, Increasing Services to Illinois Veterans
Governor Bruce Rauner recently took action on several bills as part of “Veterans Day” at the 2016 Illinois State Fair. The bills strengthen Illinois’ commitment to our veterans and their families by providing needed assistance and honor to those who have sacrificed so much for our country and our state.

HB 4389 designates the day after Gold Star Mother’s Day as Gold Star Family Day to be observed throughout Illinois as a day to honor and commemorate the families of men and women who gave their lives while serving with the armed forces of the United States. HB 4432 allows a child in any grades 6 through 12 to be absent from a public school for the purpose of sounding “Taps” at a military honor funeral held in Illinois for a deceased veteran. HB 4627 allows veterans to begin their college education upon discharge regardless of how the calendar year lines up. HB 4344 creates the Heroes Way Designation Program Act. It is a way to honor servicemembers who were killed in action by allowing a relative to apply to have an honorary sign with the name of the servicemember erected along designated Illinois roads. I’m proud to support initiatives like these, to support our veterans and their families, especially those who have given “the last full measure” in service to our country.
With the Friday signing of State Representative Peter Breen’s (R-Lombard) SB 3047 by the Governor, innovative and life-saving cancer treatments will now be taxed at the same rate as prescription drugs and most other medical devices.

Under the new law sponsored by Breen in the House and Senator Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) in the Senate, cancer treatment items that were previously taxed at the normal consumer product tax rate will now be taxed at only 1%, like prescription drugs and other medical devices. Specifically the law lowers the taxes on cancer treatment devices classified by the Federal Drug Administration as Class III medical devices.

“SB 3047 corrects a loophole in the law that had cancer patients paying too much in taxes for the equipment they need to battle their disease,” said Breen. “The provisions took effect immediately upon the bill’s signing, so that those involved in cancer treatment can experience immediate relief in the tax rate applied to the medical devices.”

According to Breen, Class III medical devices had been taxed at a rate of 6.25% like most other consumer goods, but with the change in statute, the cost of obtaining the equipment will be considerably lowered. “These medical devices have been recommended for use by cancer patients’ physicians as part of their treatment plan, and it made no sense that they were being taxed at a rate that was more than five times higher than other physician-prescribed items,” said Breen.

Click here to here more from Breen on this legislation.
Illinois’ Open Meetings Act (OMA) now includes stronger protections for citizens to remedy open meetings violations, thanks to bipartisan legislation sponsored by State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) that was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner on Friday.

HB 5683, signed into law as Public Act 99-0714, closes a loophole and improves government transparency by extending the timeframe during which citizens who file OMA grievances with the IL Attorney General’s office can seek remedy in the court system. Before hiring an attorney, it is common for citizens to bring their grievance to the Attorney General’s office for an opinion as to whether a violation to the OMA has occurred. “Folks were deprived of their day in court under the prior open meetings law,” said Breen. “Often, the Attorney General’s investigation of an open meetings complaint would take longer than the 60-day deadline for a citizen to go to court. This new law will now ensure that the clock for court action doesn’t start until after the Attorney General issues her ruling on an open meetings complaint.”

A bipartisan initiative, Breen worked with Democrat and Republican representatives from across the state to secure unanimous support for the bill in the House. Republican State Senator Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) carried the bill in the Senate, where it also received unanimous support.

According to Breen, the need for the bill was brought to light as a result of a situation involving an OMA violation at the College of DuPage (COD), when a local resident asked the AG office to issue an opinion on the legality of a vote by the former COD Board of Trustees to extend the contract of then-COD President Robert Breuder.

“The Attorney General’s office agreed that a clear violation had occurred and they issued a reprimand to the board members who ignored the provisions of the Open Meetings Act,” Breen said. “But since that decision was issued more than 60 days after the challenged action, the citizen was unable to go to court and get that employment contract voided. Taxpayers in DuPage and surrounding counties are now having to pay the price for that costly and illegal contract.”
Legislation sponsored by State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) that shines a light of transparency on efforts to saddle taxpayers with additional public pension liabilities was signed into law this past week by Governor Bruce Rauner.

HB 5684, signed into law as PA 99-0646 addresses the practice of pension spiking, which occurs when public employees in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) who have accrued large balances of unused sick and vacation time are allowed to convert those days into early pre-retirement cash payments. The payments artificially raise the employee’s pensionable income, which can lead to much higher pension payments than expected upon retirement.

“Pension spiking hurts everyone, taxpayers and public employees alike,” said Breen. “These pensions are paid for entirely by local residents, often through their property taxes. Our pension liabilities are already at unsustainable levels across the state, and every abuse of the system must be rooted out, exposed, and stopped.”

Through the new law, local government boards will now be required to hold an open meeting and take a public vote, after full disclosure of exactly how a retiring employee’s pension would be affected before any potential pension spiking payment can even be considered. “The provisions of this law will shine a bright light for taxpayers and should curb or end this budget-busting practice at the local government level,” Breen said. “This is a taxpayer protection initiative that received wide bipartisan support in both chambers of the General Assembly.”

The new law takes effect immediately.
In response to a series of financial abuses and irresponsible decisions that occurred at the College of DuPage (COD) in recent years, appointed members of governing boards of public universities and colleges will now have to complete professional development and leadership training, thanks to legislation sponsored by State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) that was signed into law on Friday.

SB 2174, now known as Public Act 99-0695, requires appointed board members to show proof of taking training within two years of beginning their service and within every two years of service thereafter. The Illinois Board of Higher Education will oversee the training mandate, and topics to be covered will include:
  • public university and labor law
  • contract law
  • ethics 
  • sexual violence on campus 
  • financial oversight and accountability 
  • audits, and fiduciary responsibilities of a member of a governing board 
“College of DuPage is located in my representative district, and based upon the actions of the former COD board majority, I felt strongly that the General Assembly needed to put some requirements in place that will ensure that our public servants have a working understanding of issues related to their service,” said Breen. “These new training requirements will help protect taxpayers, students, and parents from mismanagement of the money they send to institutions of higher learning.”

SB 2174 was part of a comprehensive reform package that responded to repeated reports of abuse and misuse of taxpayer dollars at Illinois colleges and universities. “These trustees manage very large budgets and make decisions that have significant impacts on college students,” Breen said. “Making sure they have proper training in key areas of law, ethics, and finances will improve outcomes for all of our colleges, community colleges and universities.”
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, www.cyberdriveillinois.com. 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.