This November, State Senator Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) and State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) will partner with the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the local Lilac Post 5815 for their second annual “Support Our Troops” collection drive. Items collected throughout the month of November will be delivered to military personnel serving overseas near or before Christmas.

“Supporting our troops is as easy as buying some of the suggested items the next time you’re in the store, and bringing them to our legislative offices. Your thoughtfulness will mean so much to the men and women who are a long way from home, especially during the holiday season,” Nybo said. “Rep. Breen and I want the brave young men and women who serve in our military—now and in years past—to know how much we appreciate their leadership and their commitment to freedom.”

The Nybo/Breen legislative office at 929 S. Main Street, Suite 105A in Lombard will serve as a drop-off location for items to be donated to U.S. troops. Donations will be accepted from November 1-30 during normal business hours of 9:00 AM until 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday.

“This local collection drive provides us with a meaningful way to show our deep appreciation for our troops and their dedication to protecting our freedoms,” said Breen. “Our care packages are one small way of honoring and hopefully easing the great sacrifices of these brave men and women.”

The legislators would also like to send care packages specifically to local soldiers from the area (IL Senate District 24 or IL House District 48). Friends and family with loved ones from the area who are currently serving in the military are encouraged to contact the Nybo/Breen office with their names and addresses.

Recommended items to be included in the care packages include: 
  • Books, magazines, crossword and word search puzzles, coloring books, colored pencils, dominoes, checkers or chess games 
  • iTunes Gift Cards, headphones/ear buds, DVD movies or television shows, small video games, international calling cards 
  • Baby wipes, deodorant, Kleenex, lotion, toothpaste/toothbrush, shampoo, soap, female hygiene items, shaving cream, razors 
  • Beef jerky, powdered drink mix, coffee, granola or protein bars, trail mix, dry snacks, mixed nuts 
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, air fresheners 
  • Footballs, basketballs, soccer balls and frisbees 
Because the items will be mailed, aerosol cans/containers, food items that could melt or spoil and fragile items cannot be accepted.

For more information about the collection drive, or to leave contact information for a specific member of the service, call Sen. Nybo’s office at (630) 969-0990 or Rep. Breen’s office at (630) 403-8135.
New Illinois Competitive Council Review Agency Rules/Regulations to Find Millions in Savings for Illinoisans by Cutting Through Red Tape
Last week Governor Bruce Rauner announced a comprehensive plan to promote economic growth and job creation by cutting the red tape in Illinois. He signed Executive Order 16-13 to review all agency rules and regulations by the newly-created Illinois Competitiveness Council. The Illinois Competitiveness Council will be comprised of a representative of each of Illinois’ regulatory state agencies. Its goal is to save Illinoisans at least $250 million in direct license fee costs over the next decade, and save Illinois taxpayers and business owners at least 4 million pages in paperwork. It will work to ensure current regulations are up to date and relevant to today’s industries and practices; ensure the language in rules are easy to understand; reduce the amount of unduly burdensome requirements on businesses, social service providers, and citizens through both time and cost; and ensure there is a clear need for the regulation.

In addition, the Illinois Competitiveness Council will look for recommendations to improve Illinois’ licensing environment to promote job growth and job creation. Currently, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) has more than a million active licenses in more than 200 license categories, however for nearly a third, IDFPR has issued fewer than 100 licenses. The growth of these licenses has increased 184 percent in the last 20 years.

Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado, and Massachusetts have all successfully reviewed their rules and cut red tape to give their citizens a more competitive advantage over Illinois citizens. Burdensome and unnecessary regulations, policies and licensing requirements disproportionately impact small businesses, particularly minority-owned businesses.

In order to have the greatest impact, the Illinois Competitiveness Council is seeking input from the public on which rules and regulations are the biggest hindrance to people and businesses. Anyone can submit feedback to cut the red tape at www.illinois.gov/cut.

Breen to Partner with Senator Nybo and Local Group for “Support Our Troops” Campaign
Beginning November 1, I will once again be partnering with Senator Chris Nybo and the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the local Lilac Post 5815 for a “Support Our Troops” holiday collection drive. Items collected will be delivered before or near Christmas.

Our shared legislative office at 929 S. Main Street, Suite 105-A in Lombard will serve as a drop-off location for items to be donated to U.S. troops serving overseas. Donations will be accepted throughout the month of November during normal business hours of 9:00 AM until 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday. Senator Nybo and I would also like to send care packages specifically to local soldiers from the area (IL Senate District 24 or IL House District 48). Friends and family with loved ones from the area who are currently serving in the military are encouraged to contact our office with their name and address. You may reach my office at (630) 403-8135.

Recommended items that can be included in the care packages include: 
  • Books, magazines, crossword and word search puzzles, coloring books, colored pencils, dominoes, checkers or chess games 
  • iTunes Gift Cards, headphones/ear buds, DVD movies or television shows, small video games, international calling cards 
  • Baby wipes, deodorant, Kleenex, lotion, toothpaste/toothbrush, shampoo, soap, female hygiene items, shaving cream, razors 
  • Beef jerky, powdered drink mix, coffee, granola or protein bars, trail mix, dry snacks, mixed nuts 
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, air fresheners 
  • Footballs, basketballs, soccer balls and frisbees 
Because the items will be mailed, aerosol cans/containers, food items that could melt or spoil and fragile items cannot be accepted.

Industry Hotline Offers Insurance Assistance
The Illinois Insurance Hotline is a free and valuable resource available to help Illinois residents make informed decisions about insurance-related issues. The Hotline is a non-profit industry-sponsored outreach that can answer basic questions, provide educational materials and offer direction for more intricate questions about property, casualty, life or health insurance. Residents can reach the Hotline by phone or email for guidance on a wide range of topics, including company contact numbers, financial ratings, complaint records, state mandates, options following a cancellation or non-renewal, the claim settlement process and more. You can contact the Illinois Insurance Hotline by phone at 1-800-444-3338, or by email at insurancehotline@illinoisinsurance.org. The Hotline is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM.

In Latest Sale of Illinois Bonds, Interest Rates Rise Again
The newest sale of Illinois general obligation (GO) bonds was completed on Thursday, October 13. It drew a picture of worsening yields and interest-rate obligations for the debt-beleaguered State of Illinois. In the process that led up to last week’s bond sale, debt underwriters negotiated in the marketplace with potential lenders on the interest rate Illinois would have to pay as the price for selling its package of bonds. When the sale process was complete, Illinois taxpayers learned that their BBB-ranked State government would have to pay a premium of 200 interest basis points (2.00%) in interest over the rates paid by borrowers which have achieved the coveted triple-A (AAA) rating. AAA-rated borrowers include the neighboring state of Indiana.

The risk premium paid by Illinois and its taxpayers this week was a sharp upturn from the 1.62% risk premium quoted in the last Illinois debt sale. These numbers signaled a further weakening of Illinois’ financial position relative to other U.S. units of government. Illinois has now operated for more than 15 months without a full-year budget. Continued growth in the State’s backlog of unpaid bills (more than $8.9 billion as of Wednesday, October 12) is leading to growing pressure on the State’s credit rating and perceived standing as a debtor.

Federal Government Confirms Illinois is Moving Toward Compliance with REAL ID Act
Compliance, or movement toward compliance, is required for a state ID card (such as a driver’s license) to be seen as adequate identification for federal security purposes, such as entering an armed forces base or the boarding area of an airport. Illinois is one of 14 states that have been officially ruled as out of compliance with the 2005 federal law. Congress enacted, and former President George W. Bush signed, the REAL ID Act after the events of September 11.

Under the terms of the federal law, applicants for a drivers’ license or official ID equivalent are required to present a variety of official documentation to confirm and re-confirm their legal status within the United States. In addition, the drivers’ licenses or equivalent state documentation must be produced in physically secure facilities and must comply with a series of federal mandates intended to reduce and eliminate counterfeiting. The eventual goal is to bring the 50 states’ drivers’ licenses closer to the level of identification and security that are imposed upon applicants for a U.S. passport. After a ten-year transition period, the federal government has begun to impose penalties upon the residents of states that remain out of compliance with the REAL ID Act.

The General Assembly responded to federal compliance issues in spring 2016 by enacting new legislation (SB 637) intended to move toward compliance with the REAL ID Act. Under this legislation, the offices of the Illinois Secretary of State are no longer allowed to print out and distribute plastic drivers’ license cards. Starting in summer 2016, Secretary of State employees who have undergone criminal background checks are now allowed to collect information from an Illinois resident. The State employee will then send digital information over a secure phone line to a facility in a secure location. The new drivers’ licenses, which are mailed to their recipients, are similar to the old drivers’ licenses in some ways and different from them in others. They contain features that are difficult to counterfeit.

Under the new legislation and technology, Illinois has now been re-ruled to be 84% in compliance with the REAL ID Act. This status will be valid until October 10, 2017. During the 12-month period preceding this deadline, Illinois drivers’ licenses and ID-card equivalents will be viewed as adequate to enter federal security-secured areas, such as federal facilities and airport boarding areas. The Department of Homeland Security is warning Illinois and 13 other states that they must take further actions in spring 2017 in order to move closer toward complete compliance with the REAL ID Act. Eight other states, including Kentucky and Missouri, have been ruled noncompliant with the REAL ID Act. Their residents could face identification-related sanctions as soon as January 30, 2017.
In the wake of the scandal at the College of DuPage, the General Assembly demanded an independent audit of the books and practices at COD. When the College’s Board of Trustees turned over after the 2015 election, the new board members agreed to the audit. Almost a year-and-a-half later, the auditor’s 253-page report has now issued, painting a detailed picture of government bureaucrats run amok.

They ignored and flaunted relevant laws and policies put in place to protect taxpayer dollars. Over half the purchases reviewed by the auditor were made in a “no bid” manner—and even when bids were properly solicited, administrators didn’t follow the Illinois laws that ensure transparency in awarding contracts. On top of that, the former Board of Trustees didn’t regularly evaluate the college president, who has since been fired by the new board, despite policies requiring annual reviews. Nor did that former board provide proper oversight over the college’s many millions of dollars in investments of taxpayer moneys.

The audit also highlighted the excessive compensation and severance paid to the former college president by the old board, almost double that of any other community college president in Illinois.

But the real story here is how this audit even came to be, because the audit of COD had to be approved by the COD Board itself—and when that vote was taken in April 2015, it was by a bare majority, 4-3. The only reason the audit demanded by the General Assembly happened was because three new board members were elected (to join the lone reformer on the old board). These three are the reason you and I are now able to see an independent, detailed review of the various issues at the College.

You should remember the names of these three brave public servants: Deanne Mazzochi, a mom from Elmhurst and leader of the group, Frank Napolitano of Bartlett, and Charles Bernstein of Wheaton. They had nearly no elected service, but they took on the local political establishment and won the three open seats on the COD Board, in an incredible upset. And the “reward” of their victory was to take on the herculean task of cleaning up a college mired in scandal. These board members are true public servants, serving in an unpaid role as trustees to save a community gem, our beloved College of DuPage.

I get to see the best and the worst of public officials in Springfield, and sometimes it’s disheartening: you wonder if, for the sake of turning Illinois around, there are enough good people out there, willing to serve for the public interest and not to line their own pockets. I take great inspiration from these reformers at COD, newcomers to politics who stepped forward to run for and serve during a time of crisis. While I’m singling out Deanne and her compatriots, there are folks like them at every level of Illinois government—but we need more!

You may find yourself in a place where you are able to run for office. It’s certainly not easy, nor is it always fun. Unless your definition of “fun” is knocking on the doors of thousands of complete strangers in rain, snow, sleet, and hail! But if your skills, ability, and family situation allows you that opportunity, maybe you are being called to serve. Either way, you can support honest, ethical, and thoughtful candidates for office.

When those candidates come to your door, please give them encouragement, even if you disagree with their politics. I can give you many examples in my own involvement where a kind word or a friendly face at the door propelled me onward, to continue knocking on doors and reaching a few more folks, despite the rain, snow, or freezing cold. And if you like the person and their policies, then go ahead and put up a yard sign, volunteer to help, and tell your neighbors and friends about them. By your efforts—whether supporting those who run for office or running yourself—you can help ensure that our community, our county, and our state are the kinds of places where our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren can live, grow, and prosper.