Legislative Update: End the Political Games

As school children across Illinois begin returning to classrooms for the 2017-2018 school year, lawmakers were called to Springfield last week on the premise that we would resolve how we will fund Illinois’ public schools for the 2017-2018 school year. For the first time in the state’s history, the first state aid payment, due to school districts on August 10, was missed due to our inability to approve funding for the year. Pressure is mounting, which is just what House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton want. You see, as worries mount, pressure increases on lawmakers to approve legislation that benefits Chicago Public Schools at the expense of school children from all other parts of the state.

While the Senate took action on Governor Rauner’s amendatory veto of SB 1 on Sunday, August 13, the bill was not brought to the floor for a vote when members of the House of Representatives were in Springfield on Wednesday, August 16. Instead, Democrats reverted to their political playbook and engaged in partisan games and fake votes that did nothing to resolve the school funding crisis. We ended up leaving Springfield late that day without agreement on a school funding bill.

I am happy to report that the four legislative leaders have met twice and are meeting again today to discuss a possible compromise that would allow state aid payments to proceed without further delay. Since the only solution will involve true compromise, I am hopeful that partisanship and political gamesmanship can be set aside and the two sides can reach consensus on a formula that is fair and equitable for all Illinois school children and their families.

In my new role as House Republican Caucus Floor Leader, I was vocal in my disappointment about the lack of real work being done on the important issue of school funding. Click here to listen to my floor comments.

Breen Property Tax Event Scheduled for September 9 in Glen Ellyn
I hope you’ll join me on September 9 when I hold my second annual seminar where District 48 residents can learn about the process used to create property tax bills and about the steps to take to appeal an assessment if you believe you are being over-assessed. The event will take place from 9:00 until 10:30 AM on the 9th at the Main Street Recreation Center, 501 Hill Street in Glen Ellyn. Space is limited for this free community outreach event, so please call my Lombard office at (630) 403-8135 if you plan to attend.

Rep. Breen Supports HR 569 Condemning Terrorism in Charlottesville
In response to the violence in Charlottesville, VA that left one dead and several others injured, members of the House of Representatives approved a House Resolution last week condemning violence and hate. HR 569 repudiates and condemns white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and any other group that espouses hate and seeks to undermine the ideals of Illinois and the nation. The resolution also condemns the acts of violence in Charlottesville as domestic terrorism. I spoke during the floor discussion of the resolution and expressed my disgust over the events that transpired in Charlottesville. Click here to watch my full floor comments.

Breen Joins Republican Colleagues in Pressing for Repeal of Cook County Sugar Tax
On the heels of being hit with a 32% income tax hike, the residents of Cook County were recently saddled with a costly tax on sweetened beverages. I recently joined State Representatives Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago), Christine Winger (R-Bloomingdale), Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) and Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) in Chicago at the James R. Thompson Center to introduce legislation to immediately repeal the one-cent-per-ounce Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax. The tax, which went into effect on August 2, will result in Cook County consumers having to pay on average 67 percent more for a 2-liter of pop, 43 percent more for a gallon of juice drink or sweetened iced tea, and 29 percent more for a 12-pack.

Specifically, HB 4082 would prevent any home rule county from imposing a tax on sweetened beverages based on volume sold and repeal local laws already in effect regarding these types of taxes. The City of Philadelphia recently enacted a similar, 1.5-cent-an-ounce tax on sweetened beverages to pay for universal preschool. Following the implementation of the tax, beverage sales fell by as much as 50 percent and more than 400 jobs were lost. Additionally, actual beverage tax collections for the first six months are $6.9 million below the city’s estimate of $46.2 million.

I also filed HB 4084, which takes a broader approach in prohibiting these types of taxes. While similar to HB 4082 in desired effect, HB 4084 prohibits all local governments from imposing any tax that is based on weight or volume. This would apply to the Cook County sweetened beverage tax, but would also thwart other similar attempts to tax substances based on weight or volume. Both bill would repeal the Cook County tax, but differ slightly in how it would be accomplished.

Breen Legislation with Potential to Save Small Businesses & Nonprofits Millions is Signed into Law by Gov. Rauner
Last week Governor Rauner signed into law a bill I authored that has the potential to save Illinois small businesses and not-for-profits millions in electronic filing fees. HB 3514, now Public Act 100-0186, corrects an unfair practice that penalized businesses and nonprofits by charging an automatic ‘expedited service fee’ of $25, $50 or more on every electronic (rather than paper) filing with the Secretary of State’s office. E-filing reduces errors, saves paper and saves money, so small businesses and charities should be encouraged, not discouraged, to file documents electronically.

Leaders within the Illinois business community applauded the passage and signing of the bill. Mark Grant, Illinois Director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said, “There’s no justification for state government to charge a premium for e-filing when it actually streamlines the process and reduces costs to the state. This law is common sense and we want to thank Representative Breen for sponsoring it and Governor Rauner for signing it into law.”

Todd Maisch, President and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce agreed, saying, “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and lawmakers need to be doing whatever they can to ease burdensome regulations. HB 3514 allows businesses to file forms electronically without triggering an automatic expedition fee, and we appreciate Representative Breen’s willingness to bring this cost-saving legislation forward.”

The provisions of the new law will take effect on July 1, 2018.

Governor Rauner Signs Breen Bill that Saves Township Taxpayers Money
Earlier this month, Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill I wrote that will save townships money when they dispose of surplus wood chips generated through routine tree maintenance. HB 2423, now in the statutes as Public Act 100-0054, provides townships with flexibility in the process for distribution of waste materials generated from tree and branch removal. 

The need for the legislation was brought to me by Milton Township Highway Commissioner Gary Muehlfelt and York Township Highway Commissioner Dick Schroeder. They told me that, while townships regularly take down dead or diseased trees and fallen branches, there was no provision in the statutes to allow townships to deliver the wood chips to residents who would like to use them as a landscaping material. And it costs much more for our townships to deliver those surplus wood chips to specialty landfills, instead of providing them to taxpaying residents who can put them to good use.

Upon the signing of the bill, Commissioner Muehlfelt said, “This small change in the law will make a big difference in how we can dispose of the mulch that is created from our routine tree maintenance. I appreciate Representative Breen's willingness to bring this idea forward and incorporate it into a new law.”

Commissioner Schroeder agreed, and said, “By allowing township officials to use their best judgment in how they will dispose of tree waste, our costs are reduced and taxpayers can have access to free mulch for their yards and gardens. It is a win-win for the taxpayers who support township services and for residents who would benefit from the free mulch.”

Breen’s Legislation Allowing 360-Lid Technology for Craft Brewers Signed into Law
At the Illinois Bicentennial Craft Beer Competition held at this year’s State Fair, Governor Bruce Rauner announced that he signed into law my legislation to allow craft brewing companies in Illinois to utilize new “360-lid” technology. During his remarks, he thanked the owners of Noon Whistle Brewing in Lombard for bringing forward the idea for the legislation. These 360-lids are the newest innovation in beer can technology, and permitting their use will provide Illinois brewers with a competitive edge in the marketplace. By essentially removing the entire lid of a beer can, an aluminum drinking vessel is created that allows consumers to better enjoy the aromas associated with IPAs and other hoppy beers. With the signing of HB 2386, Illinois becomes the 15th state to allow these new lids. HB 2386 is now listed in the statutes as Public Act 100-0051.

Rauner Signs Breen Bill to Improve Government Transparency
Unfunded mandates include any State-initiated action that requires a local unit of government to absorb a new function at their own cost. As taxpayers continue to plead for property tax relief, it is important to shine a light on the true cost of unfunded mandates and how they drive up the cost of government. 

A new layer of transparency with regard to unfunded mandates is now available due to legislation I authored that was signed into law earlier this month. SB 2066 improves transparency as it relates to the cost of unfunded mandates on local governments. The provisions of the new law apply to items listed in the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) catalog of state mandates.

When government passes along these mandates, costs really increase over time. If elected officials can see the cumulative effect of these mandates, my hope is that they’ll make unfunded mandate relief a priority. The idea for the legislation was brought forward by Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, and the new law is listed in the Illinois statutes as Public Act 100-0242.

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