In a unanimous vote on Wednesday morning, the House of Representatives’ Elementary & Secondary Education- Licensing, Administration & Oversight committee recommended approval of legislation sponsored by State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) which would bring public school district administrative costs in line with national averages. The bill would also limit future administrative spending increases to the consumer price index or 5%, whichever is lower.

“It’s long past time to get control of our school district administrative spending,” said Breen. “Illinois schools are spending about 2 ½ times the national average on these costs. When our school districts bring these expenditures in line with national norms, we can either redirect that money toward classroom instruction where kids would directly benefit or use that money to reduce property taxes.”

According to Breen, the General Assembly last took up the Limitation of Administrative Costs section of Illinois law in 1997, and two decades later, the metrics in that section used have become outdated and insufficient. “Whether school districts use shared service agreements, intergovernmental agreements, or the consolidation tools available to them, there are a variety of ways to get administrative costs back to the national average,” Breen said. “The Better Government Association suggested last year that $400 million could be saved if Illinois schools limited administrative spending to national averages, as outlined in this bill.”

With the committee’s 8-0 recommendation for approval, Breen’s HB 4789 will now be forwarded to the House floor for a full debate and vote.
Today, in response to the deadly outbreak of Legionnaires Disease at the Quincy Veterans Home, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) is taking steps to ensure that families grieving the loss of loved ones there are not further ensnarled in costly and slow litigation at the Illinois Court of Claims to recover the financial benefits they are entitled to.

HB 5171 would create the Veterans Home Compensation Act. Through the Act, a benefit of $100,000—the current maximum benefit available at the Illinois Court of Claims—would be expeditiously adjudicated and paid to the surviving spouse or next of kin of any person who dies of pneumonia caused by waterborne bacteria (Legionnaires Disease) while living at one of Illinois’ veterans’ homes. “This disease has been responsible for 13 deaths at the Quincy Veterans’ Home, plus severe illness in dozens of other residents there,” said Breen. “This is entirely unacceptable, and my bill ensures that families who are clearly entitled to compensation at the Court of Claims are swiftly paid.”

Breen put forward HB 5172 after reading about the continued delays and difficulties faced by families seeking compensation at the Illinois Court of Claims for the benefits they are entitled to for the deaths of their loved ones. “These folks have been through so much, the least we can do is keep them from having to go through an extended legal process to be compensated, so minimally, when the clear fault lies with the State of Illinois,” said Breen.
This week, in an attempt to save taxpayers money and improve the efficiency of school district operations across the state, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) filed legislation that would reduce administrative expenses for Illinois’ 852 public school districts to national averages and cap annual increases thereafter to the consumer price index or 5%, whichever is less.

Click here to learn more about the bill, which has the potential to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Click here to watch the live stream of Governor Rauner's annual budget address at noon.
Today, in an attempt to save taxpayers money and improve the efficiency of school district operations across the state, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) filed legislation that would reduce administrative expenses for Illinois’ 852 public school districts to national averages and cap annual increases thereafter to the consumer price index or 5%, whichever is less.

“According to 2017 reports by the Better Government Association (BGA) and Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Illinois’ administrative spending per student is roughly 2 ½ times the national average, which means we’re paying roughly $400 million per year more than we should be,” said Breen. “It’s time Illinois gets serious about controlling administrative costs, both to protect our taxpayers and to keep school money in the classroom educating kids. It’s been 20 years since we looked seriously at limiting administrative costs in Illinois, and my bill will amend that current statute to bring us in line with the rest of the country.”

HB 4789 simplifies the School Code’s Limitation of Administrative Costs sections for both downstate school districts and the Chicago Public Schools by ensuring that all administrative costs, except pensions, are included in annual calculations under that section, beginning with the 2019-2020 school year. Currently, that section only includes six limited line items, out of approximately twenty total line items, that cover administrative costs. The Limitation of Administrative Costs section was last substantively amended by the General Assembly in 1997, by Public Act 90-653.

Breen believes his proposed cap will force school districts to get serious about focusing more tax dollars into the classroom for student learning and away from bloated administrations. “Whether school districts use shared service agreements, intergovernmental agreements, or the consolidation tools available to them, there are a variety of ways to get administrative costs back to the national average,” Breen said.

“The problem up until now has been that we were not able to compare national data on administrative spending to our state level administrative spending costs—we weren’t comparing ‘apples to apples,’” explained Breen. “Since reading the BGA and MPC reports last year, I’ve consulted with numerous experts to figure out why that is. After a lot of hard work, this bill finally identifies and closes the gap between the ways that our state and federal governments measure administrative spending. The benefit will hopefully be returning millions of dollars back into classrooms, and taxpayers’ pockets.”

HB 4789 is awaiting assignment to a substantive committee.

The BGA report can be found here: http://www.bettergov.org/news/andy-shaw-illinois-school-district-administration-a-bureaucratic-boondoggle

The MPC report can be found here: https://www.metroplanning.org/news/7412/More-efficiency-could-help-solve-school-funding-woes-in-Illinois

The U.S. Census Bureau’s reports on Public Education Finances can be found here: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/school-finances/library/publications.html

The State Board of Education page on the Limitation of Administrative Cost section of the School Code can be found here: https://www.isbe.net/Pages/Limitation-of-Administrative-Costs.aspx

The Illinois Administrative Code listing of all Administrative cost line items (2300 & 2400) can be found here: ftp://www.ilga.gov/jcar/admincode/023/02300100ZZ9998DR.html
Lawmakers Return to Springfield for Start of 2018 Session
Lawmakers are back in Springfield for the 2018 legislative session. Members of the House and Senate gathered in joint session on January 31 to hear Governor Bruce Rauner’s annual State of the State address. The Governor will present his annual budget address next week, at noon on Wednesday, February 14. The speech will be streamed live, and can be accessed at www.ilga.gov, by clicking on the House audio/video link.

Breen Champions Illinois Tax Reform Plan
In an effort to put more money in the pockets of Illinois taxpayers and infuse funds into the Illinois economy, this week I introduced the “Illinois Tax Reform Plan.” The plan, consisting of three taxpayer-friendly bills, was unveiled Tuesday at a press briefing in Springfield. You can watch that press conference here.

Each bill has the potential of lowering taxes on Illinoisans and Illinois businesses.

HB 4563 expands the Illinois Invest in Kids Act tax credit model to allow Illinoisans to make fully deductible charitable contributions to 501(c)(3) foundations supporting public school districts, while receiving tax credits to reduce their partially deductible state and local income tax (SALT) payments. The new federal tax law has increased take-home pay for the vast majority of Illinoisans, while also putting a $10,000 limit on deductions for SALT payments. Because the Democratic majority in the General Assembly has refused to allow consideration of real property tax relief and income tax relief measures, those taxes have increased much higher than our neighboring states—and for many people, to over $10,000. With this plan, folks can continue to get deductions for their excess tax liability, putting over $1 billion, every year, back into Illinois taxpayers’ wallets. Rather than sending this money to Washington bureaucrats, these dollars can be pumped into the Illinois economy, to help our state grow and prosper.

Through HB 4563, taxpayers could make annual contributions to school district foundations up to the total amount of their state income taxes and residential property taxes, in exchange for a state tax credit equal to 100% of their donation. The bill would then adjust state payments to K-12 districts, to ensure no loss of funds to either the districts or the state.

The second bill in the package, HB 4376, would allow parents who choose to send their children to K-12 private or parochial schools in Illinois to use their Illinois Bright Start program funds (529 Plan) to help offset those costs rather than only using those funds for college. Today’s Bright Start Program does not provide the flexibility provided by the recent changes in federal tax law, to allow families the ability to use their own 529 plan account for K-12 educational expenses. My bill expands the Illinois Bright Start Program’s definition of “qualifying expenses” so that families may enjoy the full tax benefits, newly available under federal tax law. Expanding the use of these tax-free funds will help hard-working Illinois families save for their kids’ education.

HB 4376 also provides for a rollover of 529 plan funds into an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account to help individuals living with significant disabilities. Whereas 529 plans may only be used for education, ABLE accounts may also be used for housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services and health care expenses. Individuals with disabilities and their families often rely on public benefits for income, health care, housing and other assistance, and eligibility is largely based on meeting an income threshold. ABLE accounts allow families to create a long-term plan with defined tax benefits for covering the significant costs associated to living with a disability.

The final bill in the Illinois Tax Reform Plan is HB 4562, a common sense measure to support the small businesses that will start or grow as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. HB 4562 will lift the burden that forces individuals who operate a small business where they are the sole employee to make payments into the unemployment insurance system. Individuals who operate a business where they are the only employee certainly can’t “fire” themselves in the traditional sense of unemployment insurance, so they shouldn’t be forced to pay for this insurance. There are thousands of single-employee businesses in Illinois, and while these entrepreneurs are contributing greatly to the Illinois economy, they’re being nickel-and-dimed through laws that force them to pay for services from which they could never benefit.

I am hopeful to have wide bipartisan support for all three bills and will be pushing for prompt consideration of the legislation in Springfield.

Rep. Peter Breen Files Bill to Preserve Illinois Stalking Laws and Protect Victims of Stalking
On November 30, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court, in People v. Relerford, struck down large parts of the state’s stalking laws on First Amendment grounds. The ruling striking the laws entirely left many victims of stalking without legal protection, so I immediately went to work on a bill to preserve and repair those laws, in accord with the dictates of the United States Constitution. The Illinois Supreme Court’s decision found several portions of the stalking statute overbroad, impermissibly infringing on the right to Free Speech. I reached across the aisle in drafting and filing my bill, HB 4506, consulting with the ACLU of Illinois to obtain its support in this effort. The bill would be immediately effective, to protect victims of stalking as soon as possible.

The bill revises several constitutionally suspect parts of our former stalking law, including prohibitions on communicating “about” a person or causing “emotional distress,” along with picketing exemptions that discriminated based on the content of the picketing. The changes I am proposing seek to provide sound, thorough protections for victims of stalking, while shoring up weaknesses in our current law, to head off future constitutional challenges.

Rep. Breen Authors Resolution Urging Congress to Implement No-Cost Paid Parental Leave Program
I also filed legislation this week that urges Congress to take swift action on an innovative new proposal that would allow new moms and dads paid leave by using their own Social Security benefits early, so they can bond with their new babies. My HR 798 would adopt the model of the Independent Women’s Forum, which provides this benefit at zero cost to employers and taxpayers. The proposal allows new parents a completely voluntary option, to collect Social Security benefits for twelve weeks, in exchange for delaying the collection of those same Social Security benefits by approximately six weeks, at retirement age. The new benefits would be offered in addition to any existing employer-paid parental leave policies.

Today, approximately 60% of new parents in America, especially working class parents, lack access to paid parental leave. The main impediment to the implementation of a federal paid parental leave policy has been cost, a problem this proposal would solve. The Social Security Administration already administers programs under which workers may choose to defer their benefits, so this program could be readily administrated by existing infrastructure. This is a no-cost solution that would provide priceless time between baby and parents during those important first months after birth.

State Representative Peter Breen Renews Push to Eliminate Red Light Cameras
This year I am renewing my efforts to eliminate unsafe, unwanted, and unnecessary red light cameras. HB 4372 would prohibit the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) from approving any red light camera installation until the requesting municipality or county provides proof that a significant increase in public safety will result from the use of the automated traffic law enforcement system. If red light cameras are about public safety, let’s see the data. There is no compelling evidence of improved safety from these cameras—just money out of your pocket.

HB 4373 is a measure that would ban red light cameras in DuPage County. I hear regularly from folks who feel red light cameras are nothing more than a hidden tax on drivers, meant to bring in revenue to local units of government. The cameras tag unsuspecting motorists with traffic tickets that no police officer on the scene would ever give. By limiting this measure to DuPage, I hope to avoid objections from the Cook County legislators who support red light cameras in that county.

Metra Seeks Public Input on Proposed Fare Structure
Metra is seeking input from customers regarding potential changes to fare structure and ticket options at several public forums this February. Input on the proposed changes can also be shared online here. To learn more about the proposed changes and for a full list of the upcoming hearings, click here.

Electronic Renewal Process Available for Renewal of Disabled Parking Placards
The Secretary of State’s (SOS) Office is now offering an electronic renewal process for all persons renewing their disabled parking placards. In addition to making the renewal process easier, it will also help to combat fraud. Any current placard holder may start the renewal process prior to their medical re-certification. Then, at the time of their medical visit, the medical professional may complete the process by providing the necessary medical information through documents that can be sent to the SOS office for processing. At this time the electronic renewal process is only available for renewals. It is not available to new placard applicants. The new system does not replace the existing paper system. Patients and medical professionals may still avail themselves of the paper process. Those who have questions about this new electronic renewal system are encouraged to call the SOS’s legislative affairs department at (217) 782-6640.
In an effort to put more money in the pockets of Illinois taxpayers and infuse funds into the Illinois economy, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) has launched the Illinois Tax Reform Plan. The plan, consisting of three taxpayer-friendly bills, was unveiled today at a press briefing in Springfield. Each bill has the potential of lowering taxes on Illinoisans and Illinois businesses.

The cornerstone of Breen’s package is HB 4563, which expands Illinois’ current Invest in Kids Act tax credit model to allow Illinoisans to make fully deductible charitable contributions to 501(c)(3) foundations supporting public school districts, while receiving tax credits to reduce their partially deductible state and local income tax (SALT) payments. The new federal tax law provided a $10,000 limit on deductions for SALT payments, while placing no limit on charitable deductions. “While changes to the federal tax code are providing many opportunities for taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money in their own pockets, folks in states where property taxes and income taxes are too high need relief. The Congress left intact the full deduction for charitable contributions, and my Illinois workaround to the new SALT deduction cap relies on the very successful education tax credit model upheld by the Tax Court and IRS, and used by states across the country. This plan has the potential to put over $1 billion every year back into Illinois taxpayers’ wallets. Rather than sending this money to Washington bureaucrats, these dollars can be pumped into the Illinois economy, to help our state grow and prosper.”

Through Breen’s SALT workaround, the current Invest in Kids Act, which allows taxpayers to make donations to private schools in exchange for a tax benefit, would be expanded to include contributions made to K-12 school district foundations. Taxpayers can make annual contributions to school district foundations up to the total amount of their state income taxes and residential property taxes, in exchange for a tax credit equal to 100% of their donation. The bill would ensure little to no cost to the state by amending the school code to ensure that state payments to the K-12 districts benefited by the program would be reduced by the amount of the total contributions received by the districts.

The second bill in the package, HB 4376, would allow parents who choose to send their children to K-12 private or parochial schools in Illinois to use their Illinois Bright Start program funds (529 Plan) to help offset those costs rather than only using those funds for college.

“Today’s Bright Start Program does not provide the flexibility provided by the recent changes in federal tax law, to allow families the ability to use their own 529 plan account for K-12 educational expenses,” said Breen. “My bill expands the Illinois Bright Start Program’s definition of ‘qualifying expenses’ so that families may enjoy the full tax benefits newly available through the revised federal tax law. Expanding the use of these tax-free funds will help hard-working Illinois families save for their kids’ education.”

HB 4376 also provides for a rollover of 529 plan funds into an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account to help individuals living with significant disabilities. Whereas 529 plans may only be used for education, ABLE accounts may also be used for housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services and health care expenses. “These types of accounts really help folks living with disabilities to maintain their independence and quality of life,” Breen said. “Individuals with disabilities and their families often rely on public benefits for income, health care, housing and other assistance, and eligibility is largely based on meeting an income threshold. ABLE accounts allow families to create a long-term plan with defined tax benefits for covering the significant costs associated to living with a disability.”

The final bill in Breen’s Illinois Tax Reform Plan is HB 4562, a measure to support the small businesses that will start or grow as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. HB 4562 will lift the requirement that individuals who operate a small business where they are the sole employee be in the unemployment insurance system. “This is a common sense issue. Individuals who operate a business where they themselves are the only employee certainly can’t really ‘fire’ themselves in the traditional sense of unemployment insurance, so they shouldn’t be forced to pay for this insurance,” said Breen. “There are thousands of single-employee businesses in Illinois, and while these entrepreneurs are contributing greatly to the Illinois economy, they’re being nickel-and-dimed through laws that force them to pay for services from which they would never benefit.”

Breen is hopeful he will have wide bipartisan support for all three bills and will be pushing for prompt consideration of the legislation in Springfield.

Breen explained the bills to the Springfield press corps in a press briefing this morning. Click here to watch the press conference.
State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) is urging Congress to take swift action to establish a no-cost federal paid parental leave benefit, to ensure new moms and dads the opportunity to bond with their new babies for the first few months after birth. Breen’s HR 798 would adopt a model recently proposed by the Independent Women’s Forum to provide for parental leave at no cost to employers or to the federal government. The proposal would allow new parents a completely voluntary option to collect Social Security benefits early, for twelve weeks, in exchange for delaying the collection of those Social Security benefits by a much smaller period, approximately six weeks, at retirement age. It is envisioned that the new benefits would be offered in addition to any existing employer-paid parental leave policies.

“Parents need time with their new babies, and we can make that possible for every mom and dad in the country with this no-cost social security proposal,” said Breen. “Today, approximately 60% of new parents in the United Sates lack access to paid parental leave. The main impediment to the implementation of a federal paid parental leave policy has been cost, and this proposal would have a zero net cost associated with it. The length of the deferment of Social Security benefits would be calculated to offset the cost of providing the parental benefit. Preliminary estimates suggest that in order to provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave, new parents would only need to defer their benefits upon retirement by six weeks.”

According to Breen, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not mandate or subsidize some form of paid parental leave. “Studies from McGill University and the University of California in Los Angeles show that paid parental leave is associated with lower infant mortality rates, increased childhood vaccination rates, high school graduation rates, and higher average lifetime earnings for the child,” Breen added. “The Social Security Administration already administers programs under which workers may choose to defer their benefits, so this program could be readily administrated by existing infrastructure. This is a no-cost solution that would provide priceless time between baby and parents during those important first months after birth.”
When the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s stalking laws on November 30, 2017, because they violate First Amendment Free Speech rights, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) went to work to preserve those laws, by revising them in accord with the dictates of the United States Constitution. Working with the ACLU of Illinois, Breen developed his bill to ensure the continued viability of Illinois’ stalking laws to protect victims of stalking and cyberstalking in the Land of Lincoln.

Breen’s HB 4506 was filed in Springfield on Thursday. “The Illinois Supreme Court, in People v. Relerford, found portions of the stalking statute unconstitutional, as overbroad and impermissibly infringing on the right to Free Speech,” said Breen, a constitutional law attorney who has served in the Illinois House of Representatives since 2015. “The ruling left a gaping hole in our statutes, which has left many victims of stalking now without legal protections. My bill, drafted in consultation with the ACLU of Illinois, would be immediately effective, to protect victims of stalking as soon as possible.”

The bill revises several constitutionally suspect parts of state stalking law, including prohibitions on communicating “about” a person or causing “emotional distress,” and content-discriminatory picketing exemptions. “We want to have laws in place that provide adequate protection against crimes, but we must also make sure our laws pass the litmus test of the First Amendment,” Breen said. “The changes I am proposing will provide sound, thorough protections for victims of stalking, while shoring up weaknesses in our current law, to head off future constitutional challenges.”

If approved by the General Assembly, the provisions of HB 4506 would take effect immediately upon its signing into law.