The Reick Report: April 16, 2019

Pension “Double-Dipping” Bill Clears IL House

This year I am a Chief Co-Sponsor of legislation that seeks to provide taxpayers with some much-needed relief by addressing the practice of “double-dipping” of pension benefits by fire chiefs. HB 3522, which received unanimous, bipartisan support last week in the House, specifically applies to retired fire chiefs who re-enter service with a different department while collecting a full pension from their first position. Fire chiefs are important public servants who deserve to earn fair benefits, but Illinoisans simply cannot afford to pay for two defined benefit pensions for the same individual. The defined contribution plan outlined in HB 3522 allows for a retirement benefit to be earned, but not on the shoulders of taxpayers.

Through HB 3522, fire chiefs who begin their service after January 1 of 2020 may only continue to collect a pension benefit while being employed as a fire chief if they participate in a defined contribution plan rather than a defined benefit plan. Most pensions are based on a defined benefit, or guaranteed-return benefit plan. By placing them in a defined contribution plan, their benefit is similar to a 401-k plan. Disability insurance benefits are unchanged in this proposal. With the 115-0 House vote last week, HB 3522 now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Family of Fallen McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner Honored in Springfield

On April 11, members of the House of Representatives welcomed and paid their respects to the family and law enforcement colleagues of fallen McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner. Keltner was killed in the line of duty on March 7 as he attempted to serve an arrest warrant in Rockford as part of the U.S. Marshals’ Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force.

All 118 members stood as words of tribute were shared and a moment of silence was observed. We must always remember brave individuals like Jacob Keltner, who put themselves in harm’s way in their role of protectors of us all.

McHenry County Police Chiefs Visit Springfield
Last week I had an opportunity to meet with two of  our McHenry County Police Chiefs, who were in Springfield for a lobbying event. The large coalition of law enforcement leaders were in town to talk with legislators about bills that affect public safety. I’m shown in this photo with Algonquin Police Chief John Bucci and McHenry Police Chief John Birk.

Revised Attempt to Increase Powers of McHenry County Board Chair Falls Short in Springfield
Remember HB 3317, the bill that sought to significantly increase the powers granted to the McHenry County Board Chairman? Citizens stepped up and signed petitions and submitted witness slips in opposition to the bill. When the bill was “gutted” after that huge public response, I mentioned that we would have to continue watching to see if the provisions of that bill were inserted into another bill.

 As expected, on April 9 the bill sponsors inserted the original provisions of HB 3317 into a new bill (HB 3596) as an amendment. McHenry County voters defeated a referendum that would have provided these “County Executive”-style powers for the McHenry County Board Chairman, but the bill sponsors rejected the public’s 2:1 mandate against that consolidation of power and tried to sneak the provisions through as an amendment to HB 3596. I’m happy to report that the citizens of McHenry County came through once again, and filed more than 260 witness slips against the new bill in the matter of about 15 hours. Influential lobbying firms also expressed opposition this time, and as a result, the bill was not called in committee and now is dead again.

Pritzker Unveils Constitutional Amendment Language

House and Senate Democrats increased taxes in 2011 and again in 2017, yet Illinois’ debt is higher than ever. Last week, Governor JB Pritzker released the language he would like to see in a Constitutional Amendment to remove the flat tax guarantee from the Illinois Constitution. His recommended language is now filed as Senate Amendment #1 to SJRCA01. Pritzker and Democrat lawmakers have proposed no spending controls or reforms to how Illinois does business. Instead, they are once again reverting to their catch-all solution of increasing taxes on Illinois families.

The language, which has already been approved by a key Senate committee, is exactly what we feared- it provides no protections for middle-income families and businesses, and is essentially a blank check for Democrats. The language includes no provision to prevent future rate increases. In fact, when asked if he’d support protecting middle-income families, Governor Prizker said, “…this is something that future legislatures and governors will make about what the rates should be…the future is unknown, and so you want to make sure they have the options that are available in this constitution.”

The Governor’s plan puts families and businesses at risk, and the House Republican Caucus remains united in our opposition to the plan.

Four Area Representatives to Co-Host Graduated Tax Town Hall
Three of my House Republican colleagues and I are co-hosting an informational Town Hall Meeting about the graduated income tax proposal on Saturday, April 27 in Lake in the Hills. The meeting, set for 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM at the Lake in the Hills Village Hall, 600 Harvest Gate in Lake in the Hills (behind the Costco on Randall Road), will include a presentation about the proposal and a period of time for questions and answers. Joining me at this event will be State Representatives Tom Weber (R- Lake Villa), Allen Skillicorn (R- East Dundee), and Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva). We will also be joined by officials from Americans for Prosperity, a not-for-profit organization that studies Illinois’ most pressing issues. I hope you’ll join my colleagues and me for this important public meeting.

House Democrats Vote to Increase Unfunded Pension Liability for Firefighters Pension Fund
On the same day that Governor Pritzker’s latest attempt to raise taxes on Illinois families and business was filed as an amendment to SJRCA01 in the Senate, Democrats in the House voted and approved a bill that would shortchange the Chicago Firefighters Pension System by more than half-a-billion dollars. All 72 Democrats in the House chamber last Tuesday voted in favor of increasing the unfunded liability for the pensions earned by Chicago firefighters. It’s just one example of the insanity going on in Springfield this year, and I was a vocal “no” vote on this terrible bill.

Legislation to Remove Statute of Limitations on Prosecuting Sexual Assault Advances to State Senate This year I am a proud co-sponsor of legislation that would remove the statute of limitations on prosecuting sexual assault offenses and thereby give law enforcement and prosecutors the ability to conduct an investigation and bring charges against a suspect without a time restriction. The legislation, HB 2135, recently earned unanimous bipartisan support in a vote of 113-0.

Currently, the statute of limitations on prosecuting sexual assault is within 10 years of the commission of the offense for victims who are over the age of 18 at the time of the sexual assault, if the victim reported the offense to law enforcement within 3 years of the offense.

At the Capitol and present for the passage of HB 2135 were a group of supporters from Mutual Ground in Aurora. Representative Wheeler recognized and welcomed them during his remarks. HB 2135 is now being considered in the State Senate.

Protections for DCFS and Adult Protective Service Workers Pass Unanimously
After an almost two year-long journey, legislation sponsored by my colleague Rep. Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) to extend protections to DCFS and Adult Protective Services workers in honor of slain-DCFS worker Pam Knight, received the unanimous approval of the Illinois House of Representatives. HB 1482 adds protections to DCFS and Adult Protective Service employees from assault, the same protections applied to teachers, police/fire, and other emergency responders who protect those in harm’s way.

Attacks against state workers who protect our most vulnerable are unfortunately common – with more than a dozen attacks taking place since 2013. This legislation essentially closes a loophole in the law that omitted DCFS and Department of Aging workers from those harsher penalties that are applied when other public servants are attacked. HB 1482 will now move to the Illinois State Senate for consideration where Senator Brian Stewart will sponsor the legislation.

Renewed Push for Scott’s Law Awareness
Scott’s Law, the Illinois state law named in honor of a fallen first responder that requires motorists to move over when they see a parked first-responder vehicle, is getting more support from law enforcement and highway officers all over Illinois. Scott’s Law specifies first-responder vehicles that are displaying flashing lights of any color – red, blue, amber, or yellow. When they see the flashing lights, drivers are legally required to proceed with due caution, reduce the speed of their vehicle, maintain a safe speed for road conditions, and – of special importance – make a lane change, if possible, into a lane not adjacent to the parked first-responder vehicle. If the driver cannot safely change lanes because of other traffic, the driver must pass the first-responder vehicle very slowly.  

The Illinois Sheriff’s Association has informed Illinois motorists that starting on the second Friday in April, they will lead a week-long public awareness campaign aimed at better enforcement of Scott’s Law and a parallel State law against distracted driving. Hand-held phones and screens are often implicated in cases of distracted driving. Scott’s Law awareness campaigns are follow-ups to what is now a death toll of four traffic-related first-responder officer fatalities so far in calendar year 2019. Illinois has observed each of these deaths with statewide memorial observances, including requests that flags throughout the state be lowered to half-staff.

The Scott’s Law push is part of the overall “Work Zone Safety Awareness Week” observance throughout Illinois, which seeks to increase driver awareness to protect law enforcement, first responders, and frontline construction workers. Laws that parallel Scott’s Law require that Illinois drivers observe lane closures, changes in traffic patterns, and reduced speed limits intended to protect Illinois road construction projects and road workers.

Local Female Leaders Recognized in Springfield

Last Tuesday I welcomed Carolyn Schofield (Crystal Lake) and Francine Zodda (Buffalo Grove) to Springfield for a brunch that honored the contributions of emerging female leaders from throughout Illinois. Schofield and Zodda were among a group of nearly 60 Illinois women who were recognized for their commitment to their communities and for work they do to improve Illinois.

Schofield is a member of the McHenry County Board and sits on the Executive Board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). She is also active locally in District 47 and District 155 Schools. Zodda operates three suburban locations of “A Child’s Place Early Learning Center,” including one in McHenry, and is a vocal advocate for state funding and other resources for early childhood education. It was my pleasure to bring these two shining stars to Springfield so the work they are doing can be publicly acknowledged. They are both making a real difference in their communities.