Big changes on the way as veto session approaches

Legislative Update: 

The past week has been filled with horrific images and stories coming out of the unprovoked attack on Israel. Those who are now calling for de-escalation and proportionality are talking out of both sides of their mouths. I would remind the 18 members of the Illinois House who published a letter titled “A Call for De-Escalation and Peace” that the first word in the term “moral equivalency” is “moral” and no one can claim the moral high ground when they have the blood of innocents on their hands.

Closer to home, you probably read about the horrible gas explosion that destroyed several homes in Woodstock and seriously damaged many other buildings, including St. Mary’s Catholic Church and grade school. Fortunately no one was seriously injured, and the fact that it took place on a holiday meant there was no one at the school. If you’d like to help those displaced by the disaster, a GoFundMe page has been established.

Last week also brought many changes to the issues we’ve been discussing through this weekly update including meaningful changes to the proposed pension reform legislation and the announcement of upcoming changes at DCFS. I’ll give you an update on both below. 

Hot Topic of the Week: 

Last week, following the adverse audit opinion of DCFS issued by the Illinois Auditor General, I participated in a press conference calling for wholesale change at the state agency that continues to fail our most at-risk children. When asked about whether the director should step aside, I reaffirmed a statement I have been making for years: a change in the director alone cannot fix this agency. Meaningful, innovative and structural changes must be made at DCFS. Changing the bureaucrats without changing the bureaucracy will only ensure that more children are left in harm’s way. 

You can read more about my comments and watch the video from the press conference here

Here is some of the news coverage: 

  • From News Channel 20: State Representative Steve Reick said the issue that plagues DCFS can no longer be ignored. “We have to do something with what’s going on in this state,” Rep. Steve Reick, (R) Woodstock, who said he plans to reintroduce a bill from 2020 to make the investigation of child abuse and neglect cases a matter of local jurisdiction.
  • From WIFR: “What we have here is an audit of an agency that takes its responsibilities so lightly that we’re leaving abused and neglected children in our wake,” said 63rd district state representative Steve Reick.
  • From KHQA: “This audit is absolutely a roadmap of what can go wrong and what has gone wrong with this agency. We need to do something different,” State Rep. Steve Reick, (R) Woodstock, said.

A few days after that press conference, Illinois DCFS Director Marc Smith announced that he is resigning before the end of the year. Again, his leaving may be the right thing, but it does not solve the problems the agency faces. I would urge the Governor to look outside the state for a new director and hire someone who comes from a state which takes a more local approach to child welfare as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach we have here in Illinois. If he hires from within the agency, he’s setting it up for nothing more than the same policies that have failed us in the past.

Personnel & Pensions Committee

Over the summer the Personnel & Pensions committee has been holding hearings to find a way to bring our Tier Pension 2 plans into conformity with the safe harbor provisions set by the federal government. As I have mentioned before, I believe that having these hearings publicly and receiving testimony from all stakeholders is the right way to craft legislation. I am committed to working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and stakeholders to find a solution to this issue with Tier 2 that is fair to the employees and fair to taxpayers. This legislation cannot become a Christmas wish list of pension sweeteners. To continue adding pension sweeteners to our already broken pension system is unsustainable.

This past week, we have made progress on changes to the proposed legislation to fix the Tier 2 problem with the federal safe harbor provisions. Additionally, I have drafted my own legislation to narrowly focus on fixing Tier 2. 

Last week I participated in a round table discussion at the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association’s MidAmerican Pension Conference where we discussed recruitment and retention issues facing police, fire, and other first responders and how our pension crisis contributes to those problems.

With just a few weeks before the legislature is set to reconvene for the veto session, there is still bipartisan work to be done to get these changes made in a fiscally responsible way that honors the promises made to employees in these pension systems.

 Happenings Around McHenry County:

If you’ve never been to Anderson’s Candy Shop in Richmond, all I can say is: “Oh, my, you don’t know what you’ve missed.” This weekend’s annual Fall Fest is the perfect opportunity to take them off your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed.

It’s getting late in the season, but if you still want to have a pick-your-own apple orchard experience, there are plenty out here to choose from! Click here.

Fall is the perfect time to enjoy the beauty of nature as we celebrate the colors and crisp weather. A visit to Moraine Hills State Park is a perfect way to spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.

Stay Up to Date: 

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