Batinick Bulletin – Legislative News from Rep. Mark Batinick for November 2022

This month, we are welcoming a season of gratitude. I wish you happy and peaceful celebrations as we approach the holiday season.

In two weeks, the General Assembly is back for veto session! We are back in Springfield in two weeks and the week after Thanksgiving; no veto session activities will be held on Thanksgiving week. As always, you can reach out to my office at any time with your thoughts or questions about our legislative session. You can reach me by calling (815) 254-0000 or emailing batinick@ilhousegop.org.

Again, I wish you happy Thanksgivings. If you’re hosting, staying at home, or traveling across the state or across the country, I wish you safe, happy, and healthy celebrations.

To honor this holiday and its significance, carry the words of Maya Angelou with you: “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”

SAFE-T Act Update

More than fifty Illinois state’s attorneys have filed lawsuits, or joined lawsuits filed by their colleagues, to strike down the SAFE-T Act. This Act will abruptly end cash bail requirements on January 1st, which will allow persons accused of criminal offenses (including dangerous and violent offenses) to be released back on the street while awaiting trial. These lawsuits were consolidated into one lawsuit to be heard in Kankakee County; the court of jurisdiction has the power to issue a stay on the Act.

The policy case against the SAFE-T Act focuses on six major flaws in the new law. These can be found online here. Every Illinoisan can raise their voice against this dangerous new law and stand with the House Republicans who are fighting to repeal the unsafe SAFE-T Act.

Illinois Fiscal Update – November 2022

Despite sustained job growth recently, the unemployment rate in Illinois is now the worst in the nation at 4.5%, a full percentage point higher than the national rate of 3.5%. The state’s sluggish recovery from the pandemic is putting the state in a precarious position as economic uncertainty and recession fears continue to increase.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security released its September 2022 report on unemployment rates in fourteen Illinois local metropolitan areas last week. It shows continued recession-level jobless rates in the Danville (5%), Decatur (5.7%), Kankakee (5.1%), and Rockford (5.9%) areas. These are regions of Illinois traditionally aligned with equipment manufacturing and heavy industry.

Chicago’s rate was 4.7%, and regions of Illinois with an orientation towards higher education or healthcare posted figures in line with their economic sectors, like Bloomington (3.4%) and Champaign-Urbana (3.5%). Some Illinois areas may have been influenced by the booming health of our neighboring states, and showed patterns in 2022 of generally healthier economies, like the Quad Cities (3.4%), Lake County (3.6%), and the Metro East (3.8%).

On our federal unemployment debt, an October 2022 congressional letter signed by House Ways and Means Committee member Illinois Congressman Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap) and Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) asked Illinois to repay our $1.3 billion debt. This was an emergency loan granted by the federal government under the provisions of Title XII of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) so Illinois could pay unemployment insurance benefits during the pandemic. These are meant for short-term financing emergencies, not like bonded State debt. Since then, we’ve made several large payments to repay part of the debt, but $1.3 billion remains unpaid. This payment is due by November 9th, 2022 (next week) and if it isn’t the federal government is required by law to commence a collection action against Illinois.

On our pension funds, the Teachers Retirement System’s pension fund lost money; every dollar in the fund at the beginning of the year was worth slightly less than 99 cents at the end of the year. In an annual report released last week covering FY22, TRS stated their fund’s assets under management would cover 43.8% of the pension fund’s eventual obligations and this figure includes reasonable compound interest additions for the period up to pension payout.

The other 56.2% is TRS’ unfunded liability and the System will ask the State to appropriate money to cover the gap. The State of Illinois has appropriated $5.89 billion to cover a share of this gap for the current fiscal year. The TRS Board of Trustees has signaled they will ask for $6.04 billion for the same purpose in FY24.

Rainbow fentanyl image from the Drug Enforcement Agency

House Republicans Target Fentanyl Dealers to Counter Decriminalization Push

Last April, the House narrowly passed a measure that lowered the criminal penalties for “low-level possession of drugs” like fentanyl and heroin. I was strongly opposed to this bill and worked with Senators and the Governor to ensure it did not go further than its passage in the House.

I co-sponsored legislation with Republican lawmakers who are fed up with Democratic efforts to lessen the penalties for drug dealers in Illinois. This legislation, House Bill 5808, is designed to allow state attorneys to prosecute fentanyl dealers.

Illinois Corruption Update

AT&T Illinois has agreed to pay a $23 million fine for trying to illegally sway former state House Speaker Michael Madigan by steering $22,500 to a Madigan ally as key legislation moved through Springfield. The former AT&T Illinois President also faces charges for conspiring to influence Madigan.

AT&T Illinois admitted that in 2017 it arranged for a Madigan ally to indirectly receive payments from the company, paid through an intermediary—a lobbying firm that performed services for AT&T Illinois. Although AT&T Illinois employees formulated a pretextual assignment for Madigan’s ally to disguise why the ally was being paid, the ally performed no actual work for AT&T Illinois and the company made no effort to ensure any work was performed. They acknowledged in the agreement that their then-president used an interstate facility to facilitate Madigan’s indirect receipt of a thing of value in exchange for Madigan’s vote and influence over a bill.

It was then announced that a federal grand jury has also leveled a superseding indictment against former Speaker Madigan. Madigan and longtime confidant Michael McClain now face an additional conspiracy count alleging the corrupt scheme with AT&T Illinois. Separately, Madigan’s former Chief of Staff Tim Mapes made his first in-person court appearance on charges stemming from the ComEd bribery scandal at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in October. He appeared for a status hearing on charges he lied to a federal grand jury investigating the alleged scheme

In other corruption news, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called for the resignation of State Senator Emil Jones III who was indicted on corruption and bribery charges. The not-guilty plea by State Senator Jones came after an indictment was filed in federal court describing his alleged actions with regard to Illinois red light cameras. As a sitting senator, Jones is alleged to have taken a payment of $5,000 in return for blocking legislation that would have been unfriendly to the red light camera industry.

Illinoisans have been paying the high price of corruption for decades. See how Illinois House Republicans are Reimagining Illinois to end the culture of corruption in our state here.

Illinois School Report Card Shows Steep Decline in English and Math Test Scores

Numbers from standardized tests administered last spring show steep declines in the percentage of students who met or exceeded state standards in English language arts and math compared to 2019, the last year tests were administered before the pandemic. These numbers were reported in the latest state report card released by the Illinois State Board of Education on Thursday. The report card also includes information on a wide range of education metrics like graduation rates, class sizes, and teacher qualifications and offers statewide data as well as data on each district and school building.

Overall, only 27.4% of third graders in Illinois met or exceeded state standards in reading, down from 36.4% in 2019. This is considered an important metric because third grade reading skills are a strong indicator of future success in school. A 2010 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that students who aren’t proficient in reading by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school that those who are proficient. Last year, only 23.1% of Illinois eighth graders scored proficient in math, down from 32.6% in 2019.

Screenshot from WMBD

Be Aware Around the State: Cougar Sightings

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is currently monitoring a cougar reported in western Illinois in early October. According to IDNR, there have been eight confirmed cougars in Illinois since 2002, including as close as Roscoe Village in Chicago!

Recently, a cougar has been tracked near Springfield and a cougar was struck and killed by a car on I-88 by DeKalb. It’s always good to keep safety tips in mind in case you are traveling to see family downstate for the holidays. IDNR has information on what to do if you see a cougar to help keep Illinoisans safe online here.

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is Live

988 is the mental health version of 911. The dialing code will strengthen and expand the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, providing the public with easier access to life-saving services. Find more information at Illinois988.com.

Illinois Throwback: Learn More about Illinois History

  • TBT: No finer Division: Soldiers in the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Brigade Combat Team wear a circular shoulder insignia which features a gold cross against a black background. This simple design got its start from Illinois soldiers who served our nation overseas a century ago. It marks the proud history of the 33rd Division of the U.S. Army.

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