January 7, 2016
Happy New Year to you and your family! While the budget impasse grabbed many headlines in 2015, I want to take this opportunity to focus on the positives and share with you the many accomplishments we achieved in 2015, with the help of so many of you. From district wide initiatives to new laws we spearheaded at the statehouse, we have a lot to be proud of this year.
In the 38th Senate District, our Illinois Valley Flood Resiliency Alliance (IVFRA) continues to grow, garnering statewide and national attention. It is truly a model other communities around the country can copy, as planning and having everyone on the same page before a flood, will save us big time in the long run. For example, we now have 24 certified flood plain managers as a direct result of the IVFRA.
Read more about the IVFRA here: http://senatorrezin.com/ILValleyFloodResiliencyAlliance.aspx
I want to thank each and every community, local leaders, and everyone involved in flood preparedness and response who is making the IVFRA what it is today. I have to give a special shout out to Mike Sutfin with the City of Ottawa, his team, and Mayor Eschbach for their hard work, as Ottawa is one of the best cities in the country when it comes to flood preparedness and being proactive in the fight.
To see more on the Illinois Valley Flood Resiliency Alliance, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_h5wq_wG3M
Like so many industry leaders in our area, I was frustrated so many talented students were leaving our area for other jobs, partly, because they didn’t know what great career opportunities are here. That’s why we started the Grundy County Summer Internship Program a few years ago, to keep local talent locally. Teaming up with the Grundy Economic Development Council, the Grundy Area Vocational Center, and several area businesses, this year was a record! 25 high school students were chosen out of more than 400 applicants to intern at nine companies.
To read more about the Grundy County Summer Internship Program here: http://www.senatorrezin.com/Media/News/TabId/451/p/41684/v/2000/local-industry-hires-summer-interns-from-grundy-high-schools.aspx
I want to thank our businesses that partnered with us: LyondellBassell, Metal Stamp, Morris Hospital, Rezin Orthopedics, Standard Bank, Utility Concrete, SpaceCo Engineering, US Cold Storage, and Aux Sable. Thank you also to Nancy Ammer with Grundy Economic Development Council and Lance Copes, the Director of Grundy Area Vocational Center.
To see more on the Grundy County Summer Internship Program, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhYYcv1cGF4
It’s not just high school students we are hoping to keep in our area, it’s college students as well. This year, we partnered with Joliet Junior College and local industries in launching the school’s new Operations Engineering and Technician Program. It is so popular already, the program filled up! This program will help our local industries, who are in need of new talent as so many of their current workers are retiring soon. Like the internship program, this will also help keep our local talent here, putting them on a successful career track.
Read more about JJC’s new program here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/joliet-romeoville/community/chi-ugc-article-jjc-partners-with-senator-sue-rezin-local-co-2015-03-11-story.html
I want to thank Joliet Junior College, Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis, and all our partners who made this new program a reality. I also want to thank our partners in this endeavor: Exelon, LyondellBassell, and Aux Sable. Thanks as well to TransCanada and Enbridge for donating to the program!
To see more on JJC’s new Operations Engineering and Technician Program, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NFDxANJYuE
When it comes to the 38th Senate District, revitalization is happenings at the Hennepin Steel Mill site, my district office has helped more than 200 constituents apply for a concealed carry license, and we were happy to have Wayne Rosenthal, the Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, tour several parks in our area so the department better understands the positive impact these parks make and what needs to be done to make them better in 2016.
At the statehouse this year, we were able to get several good pieces of legislation signed into law that will help our employers, young people, and local communities.
For example, a new law I sponsored in the Senate will allow Illinois companies seeking an air permit to be able to get one directly from the state, instead of going through the federal government. This is a big deal because in the past, companies would have to wait indefinitely to get a permit. Now, they will have an answer within a year. This is important because this provides certainty to employers and businesses seeking to invest in Illinois. Overall, it’s a very good pro-jobs, pro-growth law.
Read more about it this permit law here: http://www.senatorrezin.com/Media/News/TabId/451/p/50953/v/2000/major-probusiness-progrowth-projobs-legislation-signed-by-governor.aspx
I want to thank all our energy and chemical producers, manufacturers, environmental groups, and business groups for helping get this important new law passed. It will go a long way in helping turn our economy around and providing new, good paying jobs in the future.
I know first-hand the impact concussions can have on young people, as my son, Zach, has suffered from several of them from playing football. That’s why I am proud we were able to get the “Return to Learn” bill signed into law. This law requires schools to develop policies and procedures to help young athletes and non-athletes who suffered a concussion return to the classroom successfully. Doctors would have to clear a student before he or she could return to the classroom or participate in athletics. The law also requires school districts, based on their resources, to create a concussion oversight team consisting of coaches, trainers, and medical professionals and requires schools to create an emergency action plan in the case of a serious injury.
To read more about this concussion law here: http://www.senatorrezin.com/Media/News/NewsDetails/TabId/452/p/47757/v/2000/gov-rauner-signs-sen-rezins-concussion-legislation-into-law.aspx
From our doctors and educators, to our sports coaches and Zach, thank you to everyone who helped bring this issue to light and get this law passed.
I know many citizens in and around the Streator area are concerned about the future of having an emergency room in their community. I have good news to report. Legislation I sponsored in the Senate was signed into law on December, which will allow St. Mary's Hospital to have a standalone emergency room. This was needed because the new owner of the hospital, OSF, is ending in-patient services there and before this law, OSF couldn’t operate an ER without offering in-patient services. This is critical for the people of Streator and the communities surrounding the city as emergency rooms are life savers.
Read more about the Streator ER law here: http://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/er-approved-for-streator-after-hospital-closes/article_fcbc2f42-d362-53b7-8031-98ea4e7f13bf.html
I want to thank all of my constituents for bringing this issue to the forefront, hospital administrators, and City of Streator leaders for making this law happen.
While we still have a long way to go in terms of solving Illinois’ financial problems, we accomplished several great things in 2015. This is proof. All of this is truly a team effort. No matter what role you played in any of these pieces of legislation or initiatives, thank you. I also want to thank you for allowing me to represent you in Springfield. It’s truly an honor, and something I thoroughly enjoy doing.
I look forward to more accomplishments in 2016, working with you in the New Year, and continuing to make the 38th Senate District a great place to work, live, and raise a family.
Happy New Year to you and your family!
State Sen. Sue Rezin
In the District
Proud to see our OET program in the JJC catalog. Thanks to all who helped make this curriculum possible!
After seeing the devastating impact these recent floods have caused so many communities across the Midwest, including areas in Central and Southern Illinois, I am grateful we started the Illinois Valley Flood Resiliency Alliance - the first of its kind model in the state in 2013. Together, we can prevent flood losses.
Check out this video to see what it's all about:
Senate Week in Review: Jan. 4–8, 2016
Springfield, IL – As Illinois is now in its seventh month into the fiscal year without a state budget, based on legislative archives, this has been the longest time without a complete and constitutional, twelve month state budget since at least 1970. While the lack of a budget at the start of the fiscal year is a serious disappointment, 2016 is full of promise on a number of fronts, and could be a turning point for better days and a more vibrant economy in the Land of Lincoln, according to State Sen. Sue Rezin.
Optimism For 2016
Sen. Rezin said Senate Republicans remain committed in 2016 to passing a balanced and constitutional state budget and fundamental reforms to move Illinois forward and put the state back on track for more job creation, business investment, and economic prosperity.
A new calendar and legislative year is also the perfect time to renew a pledge for fiscal responsibility and end years of overspending beyond what taxpayers can afford. Sen. Rezin stressed the need to continue pushing for reforms to change the direction of the state from the stagnation and economic loss of the recent past, to the progress and hope a new year inspires. This effort requires working closely with the Governor’s office and colleagues on both sides of the aisle. “Accomplishment requires cooperation,” Sen. Rezinsaid.
In addition to the work on a state budget, other key legislative issues in 2016 include: property tax relief; education funding and reforms that prepare young people for careers; and workers’ compensation and regulation reforms that encourage business growth and jobs.
Efficient and Accountable Government
On Jan. 4, the final report from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s task force on local government consolidation and unfunded mandates was made public. After 11 months of meetings, public hearings and study, the Task Force’s report outlines more than two dozen recommendations for streamlining local government, empowering communities and saving taxpayer dollars. The recommendations could become legislative proposals during the 2016 spring session, allowing lawmakers the time to give them a thorough review.
There are more local units of government in Illinois than any other state in the nation at 6,963. The Rauner Administration cites the layers of government as a reason for Illinois’ second-highest effective property tax rate in the nation.
The Task Force-endorsed 27 recommendations were the result of testimony during public hearings in 2015 from more than 30 experts representing government associations, nonprofit think tanks, researchers, and state agencies. The 29-member panel of state and local elected officials was chaired by Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti. The final report can be found at www.illinois.gov.
Economic Realities Send People Packing
A sluggish economy, a not seasonally adjusted Illinois unemployment rate (5.8%) that lags behind the national average (4.8%) – according to the most recent state analysis – and a consistent top ranking for out-migration, are telltale signs Illinois needs reforms to turn around its economic prospects.
United Van Lines, the nation’s largest moving company, recently released its annual National Movers Study of customer state-to-state moves over the past year. Like last year’s report on 2014 moves, Illinois ranks third highest among the 50 states for 2015. According to the St. Louis-based company, Illinois ranked in the top five for out-migration – more people moving out of Illinois than are moving into the state – for the last seven years. Only New Jersey and New York fared worse than Illinois for 2015.
Winter Flood Update
Although the flood waters are beginning to recede, Illinois continues to be plagued by flooding triggered by heavy rains during the last week of 2015. The Governor added 11 new counties to the list of State Disaster Areas on Jan. 5, bringing the total to 23 counties. These counties are now eligible for state assistance to battle flood waters and support their local communities. Resources include sandbags, sand, pumps, trucks, inmate crews, and other assistance to ensure public safety.
Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) Legislative Liaison Erik Murphy said the agency is briefing local authorities on the assistance available for public entities and individuals. IEMA is also in the preliminary stages of disaster assessment with an eye toward eligibility for federal assistance if flooding damages warrant assistance. Murphy expects the disaster assessments to continue over the next several weeks.
The State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield remains in operation. It was first activated Dec. 28 to coordinate the state’s flood response. IEMA also manages a public website that is a great resource for updates on severe weather situations across the state and to find assistance and preparedness information. The ReadyIllinois website is www.ready.illinois.gov.
State Tax Refunds Delayed
The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) announced Jan. 4 a delay in state income tax refunds. The agency cited concerns about fraud and identity theft. Tax filers submitting their returns electronically before March 1, 2016, will be issued refunds within two to three weeks of that date. Refunds for those filing returns on or after the March 1 date will be issued within two to three weeks from the date the return was submitted.
IDOR Director Connie Beard said in an agency press release, “By delaying tax refunds by just a few weeks, we’ll be able to better detect attempts at identity theft and ensure taxpayer refunds do not fall needlessly into the hands of criminals.” Beard also commented that fraud prevention measures helped the agency save nearly $5 million during last year’s tax season. According to IDOR, tax refunds are not impacted by the current budget impasse because they are not subject to budgetary appropriations.