Lawmakers Return to Springfield on April 9
Legislators have been working in their home districts the last few weeks, but committee hearings and other meetings have continued to take place around the state. Lawmakers return to Springfield on Monday April 9, and during this first week back we will spend much of our time attending committee hearings. Friday, April 13 is the deadline by which all House Bills must have cleared a substantive committee, and I will be presenting several of my own bills with hopes of receiving favorable committee action. Two weeks later, on April 27, all House Bills must have had their 3rd reading on the House floor. 

Breen Files Comprehensive Legislative Agenda for 2018
This year my legislative agenda includes 21 House Bills and 1 House Resolution. These bills represent a variety of topics aimed at protecting taxpayers, reducing fees, improving government transparency and addressing fraud and abuse of state systems. My first bill of 2018, HB 4789, recently received a unanimous recommendation for approval from the House of Representatives’ Elementary & Secondary Education- Licensing, Administration & Oversight committee. HB 4789 would have a major impact on our educational administrative spending, which is two to three times the national average. HB 4789 would amend our current outdated administrative cost cap law to instead require school districts to (1) reduce their administrative expenses to the national average, a reduction in the hundreds of millions of dollars and (2) cap annual increases thereafter to the lesser of the consumer price index or 5%, instead of the current flat 5% increase. This measure would have a multi-billion-dollar impact on our educational system over the next ten years and ensure that more school funds go into the classroom, not to administration, or be returned to residents in the form of lower property taxes.

Other bills included in my 2018 agenda include:

HB 4372 Prohibits 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.

HB 4373 Bans red light cameras in DuPage County.

HB 4374 Extends the period of time that a driver’s license is valid by providing that licenses expire after eight years rather than four years, as allowed under the enhanced requirements of the federal “REAL ID” law, and provides that the Secretary of State will reexamine every licensed driver every 16 years rather than every eight years.

HB 4375 Requires local units of government to issue pubic email addresses to all elected officials and mandates that all official business be conducted via those public email addresses; also provides that all work-related emails for local elected officials be considered public records, even if email is generated from a personal email account.

HB 4376 Removes the current bar forbidding parents from using their Illinois Bright Start program funds (529 Plan) for the cost of K-12 parochial or private schools. Federal law was changed at the end of last year to allow this use of 529 funds, but Illinois law forbids it. 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.

HB 4506 Revises and salvages the Illinois stalking law, which was recently struck down in major part as unconstitutional under the First Amendment by the Illinois Supreme Court, and ensures legal protections for victims while minimizing future constitutional challenges.

HB 4562 Allows “solopreneur” businesses, with a single owner-employee, to opt out of the unemployment insurance system, since they are unable to “fire” themselves and collect any benefits from unemployment insurance. This measure will reduce costs for those starting new businesses, especially after the recent federal tax reform.

HB 4563 Provides a way for Illinoisans to avoid the $10k federal state-and-local-tax (“SALT”) deduction limit in the new federal tax law, by giving credits to those who make contributions to public school foundations, whether school districts or public universities, based on the model set up in the Invest in Kids Act giving credits for contributions to scholarship funds for poor children in failing schools to attend parochial and private schools.

HB 4711 Cleans up the Counties Code and Municipal Code to ensure that neighbors bringing lawsuits against a zoning or building code violator sues the correct parties, avoiding local tax dollars being used for unnecessary lawyer costs and fees.

HB 4925 With regard to laws governing concussion protocol during an interscholastic athletic activity, provides that the term "physician" includes a chiropractic physician licensed under the Medical Practice Act of 1987.

HB 5050 Reduces the cost of worker’s compensation insurance in Illinois, which is the worst in the Midwest, by clarifying that worker’s compensation benefits for certain shoulder injuries should not extend beyond 253 weeks, with a total compensation limit of 500 weeks applying to all injuries. Also requires that compensation decisions be based upon the most current edition of the American Medical Association's "Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment."

HB 5054 Requires a consistent speed limit of 70 m.p.h. on all Illinois tollways, with the exception of I-294, which is due for reconstruction. The bill would also require permission by the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to post limits below 70 m.p.h. on those tollways.

HB 5162 Amends the Citizen Participation Act to better protect citizen activists from frivolous defamation lawsuits, related to their investigations and comments on government issues.

HB 5171 Requires the benefit of $100,000—the current maximum benefit available at the Illinois Court of Claims—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. Currently, family members who are clearly entitled to this benefit are having to wait years for their compensation.

HB 5234 Adds email to the list of methods by which parties involved in court cases can be served or notified of decisions.

HB 5235 Amends the Freedom of Information Act to allow Illinois citizens greater access to group home performance records, after a Chicago Tribune expose showed major abuses in certain homes.

HB 5236 Limits the filing fee for judicial review of a red light camera ticket to no more than $20.

HB 5237 In the current law that prohibits the issuance or renewal of a license to sell alcoholic liquor within 100 feet of a church, school or hospital, removes a provision excluding the City of Chicago from an exemption to the prohibition for hotels offering restaurant service, regularly organized clubs, or to restaurants, food shops, or other places where sale of alcoholic liquors is not the principal business.

HB 5659 Creates a task force to address and reduce fraud within Illinois’ Medicaid system.

HR 798 Urges Congress to establish federal paid parental leave at no additional cost by allowing new parents to defer collection of Social Security benefits upon retirement.

As always, I will continue to provide updates about the progress of my legislation and other key bills that affect Illinoisans. If you would like to follow the progress of my 2018 legislation, use this link.

Breen Gives Keynote Speech at Lombard Chamber Luncheon
On Wednesday, March 21, I had an opportunity to speak with local business leaders from the Lombard Chamber of Commerce. We discussed the issues that are preventing our state from thriving, and the steps we must take to turn things around. I spoke about how taxes are driving families and businesses out of our state and how reckless and unbalanced spending has put Illinois at the edge of a financial cliff. However, I focused most of my speech on the burdensome regulations that make our state very business-unfriendly. A few startling statistics I shared with the business leaders include: 
  • Illinois ranks 44th in workers’ compensation costs 
  • Illinois ranks 39th in unemployment insurance costs 
  • Illinois ranks 39th for state minimum wages
In all three instances listed above, Illinois ranks significantly higher than all of our bordering states. With all of our neighbors offering a much friendlier business climate, we must take steps to reduce these costs. 

Approximately 50 local business leaders attended the luncheon, and following the presentation I answered questions. I appreciate the invitation from the Chamber of Commerce, and enjoyed the opportunity to share my thoughts about how Illinois can recover and become a leader in job creation and economic opportunity.

Illinois Again Ranked by WalletHub as Worst Total Tax Burden in U.S.
The 2018 list of U.S. states and their total tax burdens for has again been compiled by consumer-oriented database WalletHub. Illinois has had one of the highest total tax burdens in the U.S. for the past several years, and WalletHub’s March 2018 findings were in line with previous data generated by the firm. According to WalletHub, Illinois imposes a nearly 15% total tax burden on middle income families, with nearly the worst property tax burden in the country, along with mid-to-high sales and income tax burdens. 

While the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the average American household spends $2,197 on property taxes annually, WalletHub reports that this burden in Illinois is $4,058 per average household. We know this to be much higher, in reality, in DuPage County. With a property tax burden north of 2.5% of the cash value of a typical Illinois residential housing unit, folks are being taxed out of their homes. It’s long past time for tax relief for Illinois families.
This week State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) sat down with representatives from the local chapter of the League of Women Voters to discuss important issues affecting the State of Illinois. One topic discussed was the need for fair maps that eliminate gerrymandering, which allows lawmakers from the controlling Party to essentially draw legislative districts that protect themselves.
On Wednesday, March 21 State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) was the keynote speaker at a Lombard Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Breen gave a presentation to a group of approximately 50 local business leaders about issues affecting Illinois and steps that need to be taken to improve the state. A question and answer period followed the half-hour presentation.