March 13, 2015
You know how important energy is to our area. We have so many energy and chemical producers here, we are the Energy and Chemical Corridor of America. Our producers supply power to millions of people, help fund our school districts, and provide thousands of good paying jobs. As your State Senator, I am taking a leading role on energy issues at the Statehouse, so our energy and chemical industry has the support they need from Springfield to continue to thrive.
That’s why I am the chief co-sponsor of legislation creating a state Low Carbon Portfolio Standard (LCPS). Nuclear energy is so important to our district, state, and country. Nuclear energy is responsible for almost half of all electricity produced in the state. This legislation helps our energy producers compete, create jobs, protect the environment, and lower the costs for consumers.
Under this legislation, the LCPS would require certain Illinois electric utilities to purchase a specified percentage of low carbon energy credits from energy sources that emit zero or low amounts of carbon dioxide. This includes wind, solar, hydro, wave, clean coal, and nuclear.
At a time where some of our nuclear power plants are in jeopardy of closing (none in our district), putting thousands of jobs and local economies at risk, we need a fair and comprehensive piece of legislation that can help these and other nuclear facilities thrive, while not picking winners and losers. This piece of legislation does that by building a more competitive market.
The benefits of the LCPS include:
– An increase in renewable energy
– Maintaining existing low-carbon energy sources like nuclear power
– Consumer protections such as a price cap and customer rebate provision
– Helps comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan
The LCPS is the right thing for our energy future, economy, environment, and consumers. I am hopeful we can pass this very important, bi-partisan piece of legislation because it will help our area tremendously.
I hope you have a great weekend and enjoy the finally warmer temperatures!
State Senator Sue Rezin
Top: Joliet Junior College Culinary Team cooked at the Governor’s Mansion this week. Their talents and food are just the best!
Next: Reception for Illinois Rural Health Associates and Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Center with Ken Ryan Illinois (State Medical Society), Margaret Vaughn, Karen Schwarz (Heartland Blood Center), Bill Dart (Illinois Department of Public Health)
Next: Sue visiting with WCIA-TV (CBS Champaign), talking about the Low Carbon Portfolio Standard, a bill she is co-sponsoring
Next: Sue’s zon, Zach, home from spring break visiting the Senate chamber
Next: Zach sitting at Sue’s desk
Next: Zach meeting Governor Rauner
Next: Sue at last year’s Flood Fighting School. This week, Sue received an award for her legislative efforts to prevent flooding
Bottom: Sue is the new Secretary of the Downstate Sportsman Caucus!
Grundy County Internship Program a Huge Success!
Very excited to announce our Grundy County Summer Internship Program won the Partnership Award from the Grundy Economic Development Council! This program has been so beneficial to our students, employers, and communities. It allows our students to learn and get a real-world, hands on experience at some great local employers. It also creates that pipeline for our students to then work in industries in our area. The program has been very successful, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Thanks to our local businesses and to the combined efforts of the education and business communities. Starting with a few local champions, in just three short years, the program has nearly tripled in size.
Grundy County juniors and seniors can apply for an internship. This summer, 30 Grundy County students will have a great summer work experience. While the application window has closed for the summer program, make sure to keep this link handy in the future:
COWL Scholarship Fund:
Attention women 25 and older looking to further their education: You can apply right now for the COWL Scholarship. This scholarship seeks to maximize educational opportunities for all income levels by offering tuition assistance to mature (age 25 or older), deserving women who show evidence of furthering their education in order to make a contribution to their government, children, families, and community. The one-year undergraduate scholarship will cover tuition, books and fees up to $2500 per year, including summer school.
We Have the Best!
Big CONGRATS to Sara! So well deserved! We are so very lucky to have you!
Sara McDonald, principal of Northview Elementary School in Peru, has been named the 2015-16 Illinois Principal of the Year by the Illinois Principals Association. She was selected from a pool of nominees provided by 21 regions throughout the state. She will be recognized at the IPA’s fall conference in October and will receive a $1,000 honorarium. Mrs. McDonald also has the opportunity to participate in the National Association for Elementary School Principals National Distinguished Principal of the Year award and event in Washington D.C.
Mrs. McDonald sets high expectations for herself and her staff and has a deep commitment to serving students. She has continued her education with training on the Kindergarten Developmental Survey (KIDS), Comprehensive Literacy Model (CLM), and the Danielson Model on Teacher Evaluations. Mrs. McDonald also serves in several other capacities and writes a number of grants for Peru Elementary School District 124.
No More to Domestic Violence:
This week, March 8-14, we join millions who are participating in the ?#?NOMORE? campaign to stop domestic violence and sexual assault. Join the Illinois Senate Republicans and take a stand to help end the violence.
Rezin Receives Award for Flood Prevention Efforts:
State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Peru) has been honored by a statewide group for her work to help Illinois residents plan for and protect themselves from flooding, and for her support of legislation addressing floodplain issues.
The 38th District Senator received the Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management (IAFSM) Legislation Award at the organization’s Annual Conference March 13 in Bloomington.
The award honors an Illinois lawmaker or local official for his or her efforts in floodplain issues.
“I am so honored and humbled to receive this recognition,” Rezin said. “I can’t stress enough that it’s a team effort to prevent flood losses. I want to thank everyone around the 38th Senate District who is taking a proactive approach so we are better prepared when waters start to rise along our rivers and streams.”
In 2014, Sen. Rezin took a leading role, establishing the Illinois Valley Flood Resiliency Alliance (IVFRA) to get communities together to learn more about how to prevent flooding, how to coordinate people and materials during a flood, and the best practices of clean-up and recovery. It also educates communities in floodplain management by joining established state and federal organizations, certifying key people as floodplain managers, and adopting higher regulatory standards.The IVFRA is also working on securing grant funding right now for flood-fighting materials.
“Having local flood-fighting experts, the newest flood-fighting materials, and having each community on the same page will go a long way the next time flood waters are imminent,” Rezin said. “It will also save local governments, municipalities, infrastructure, and people a lot of money. I am confident our flood alliance will help keep our neighborhoods and infrastructure dry and also save lives.”
Rezin was nominated for the Legislation Award by Mary Lou Kalsted, who chairs the Community Rating System Users Group for the Illinois Association of Floodplain and Stormwater Managers.Kalsted also worked for the Village of Lisle for 33 years, including the last 10 years as Stormwater Administrator.
“Without the strong encouragement and political support from Senator Rezin, the coalition would not have come to be,” Kalsted wrote in her nomination letter. “She was able to look at flooding across her district, and bring together the numerous municipalities and counties who deal with it repeatedly. Her efforts on behalf of her district have made a huge difference for life along the rivers. Participating communities now understand that their own actions have a direct impact on sister communities up and down stream.”
Rezin took a proactive regional approach to flood fighting after the flood in 2013 cost LaSalle and Grundy counties more than $150 million.
“The state of Illinois has the largest collection of inland bodies of water and rivers in the continental United States,” Rezin said. “Twelve percent of surface in Illinois is mapped as a flood plain. It’s not a matter of if we will have another flood, but when we will have another flood.”
“After the flooding in the spring of 2013, Senator Rezin worked with other area legislators and asked communities in her district what steps could be taken to reduce flood losses,” Kalsted wrote in her nomination letter. “Based on the results and working with the IAFSM Floodplain Management Committee, Senator Rezin took the lead and contacted communities in her district and set up an organizational meeting.Since then, five counties and 18 communities from the 38th District have formed a coalition to prevent, fight, and mitigate flooding.”
Senate Week in Review: March 9-13, 2015
Springfield, IL – The hottest topic at the Capitol this week was testimony surrounding a new state budget while the hottest ticket in town was a seat inside the State Supreme Court Chambers for oral arguments on public pension reform, according to State Sen. Sue Rezin said.
Also during the week, the annual budget hearings continued at a fast pace. Senate budget committees heard testimony at meetings in Chicago and Springfield, which included funding requests from state agencies, board and commissions, and state universities.
Because of Illinois’ current fiscal crisis, the Governor and Senate Republicans are calling for changes in the operation of state government. A restructuring of the state budget is needed to realign priorities and reduce spending by eliminating mismanagement and waste. The restricting allows state government to focus resources on budget priorities such as education, human services and public safety. It means for the first time in more than a decade, the management standard is making sure state spending does not surpass state revenues.
Fixing a Hole
Adding to state government’s difficulties in shaping a budget for the new fiscal year that starts July 1, is the present reality facing lawmakers and the Governor about plugging the $1.6 billion hole in the current budget.
Senator Rezin said the budget for Fiscal Year 2015 – with all of its financial problems – was knowingly approved last May by Democrat majorities in the Senate and House and signed by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. It did not have adequate funding for the spending it proposed. The “booby trap” budget is beginning to explode as human services programs such as the state’s Child Care program, are running out of money.
However, a solution to address the crisis may be near, according to Gov. Bruce Rauner.
While continuing his tour of the state March 10 to talk about his plans to “turnaround Illinois,” the Governor said he was close to an agreement with the leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives to fix the $1.6 billion budget shortfall. Negotiations about the current budget have been ongoing for weeks. The Governor told southern Illinois media the consultations with lawmakers were like “sausage being made,” not always a pretty picture.
Sen. Rezin said if taxpayers had more knowledge of how and where elected officials were planning to spend their hard-earned money maybe budget shenanigans would become a thing of the past.
Two legislative proposals promoting budget transparency and sunshine are pending before the Senate this spring, sponsored by State Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Wheaton). The measures would impact how the budget process is conducted at the state and local level. In the case of last year’s “booby trap” budget, the massive spending plan was dropped on lawmakers’ desks with a mere few hours for senators and representatives to consider the thousands of details and cast a vote. Senate Bill 1356 requires a three-day posting before a state budget bill can be voted on by the legislature. The second measure, Senate Bill 1469 requires county boards and commissions to post their budget plans for a minimum of seven days before taking final action.
Public Pension Reform at the State Supreme Court
The Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments March 11 on a public pension reform law passed in 2013 that would change how pensions for state employees are calculated and paid. The law would affect four state retirement systems: Teachers, Universities (including community colleges), State Employees and the General Assembly. Among other provisions, it included a reduction in annual cost-of-living adjustments on pension benefits and creation of an optional 401-K style savings plan. The issue came before the high court after a lower court ruling in November 2014 declaring the pension law unconstitutional. Judge John Belz ruled at the time the Illinois Constitution protects state pensions from reductions or diminishments. The state appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.
On March 11, the Attorney General’s office argued the state’s police powers give it the authority to alter the pensions because of the state’s serious financial crisis. An attorney representing state employee unions told the Justices the pension protection clause in the state constitution protects employee pensions from any alterations resulting in reduced benefits.
It’s not a matter of argument about the condition of the state’s public pensions systems, considered to be the worst-funded of any state. The underfunded liability is estimated at $105 billion, which jeopardizes the integrity of the pensions. Attempts to correct the underfunding with catch-up payments also impose a burden on the state’s ability to pay for basic programs such as human services and public safety.
Supreme Court oral arguments lasted about an hour. Justices gave no indication when they would rule on the state’s appeal.
Economics 101 for Elected Officials
Illinois elected officials who deal annually with budgets, pensions, programs and services would be required to undergo an eight-hour course on economics every two years under legislation sponsored by State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). Senate Bill 700 would require elected officials to take the continuing education class at their own expense. The curriculum would cover basic economic theories and how those theories impact governmental policy.
School Safety Redo
There is a renewed effort underway at the Capitol to improve school security and student safety. Sponsored by State Sen. Neil Anderson (R-Rock Island), Senate Bill 1340 would create a statewide School Security and Standards Task Force to help schools improve their active security measures and overall safety and security of buildings and classrooms. The General Assembly took action last year to create the task force and it was commissioned to report its findings this year. However, after signing the legislation into law, then-Gov. Quinn failed to make timely appointments to the task force and the panel never met. The original motivation behind the task force was the highly-publicized violent school shootings around the nation. The Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 1340 March 10 and the measure now goes before the full Senate for consideration.
Additional Legislative Committee Action
Senate lawmakers approved several dozen other bills in committee during the week on such issues as education, utilities, crime and local government. All of the bills now go back to the full Senate for consideration. A list of legislation passed by Senate committees is available at our caucus’ “Senate Action” page where you can search each day’s activity.