Latest News

This week, key advancements in the plan to turn Illinois into the “next coast” for technology and enterprise creation were released. The progress report was occasioned by news earlier this month that the project was appropriated $500 million by the State of Illinois.

The anchor project in the plan is the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), an innovation center led by the U of I System intended to be located within The 78, Related Midwest’s 62-acre planned development in downtown Chicago. Bordered by the South Loop, Chinatown, Bronzeville and Pilsen, DPI will be the centerpiece of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), a system of research centers across the state tailored to meet the needs of individual regions and lift their economies.
From Lake County's 19th Judicial Circuit Court: 
The 19th Judicial Circuit Court’s Jury Commission received notification of several occurrences where individuals had been contacted via telephone by a male identifying himself as a Lake County Deputy Sheriff. Citizens were told that they had failed to appear for Jury Duty and needed to proceed to the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan immediately. Once at the Courthouse, they were instructed to call the Deputy Sheriff stating that they had left their residence. Local authorities have verified that the name provided by the caller is NOT a Lake County Deputy Sheriff. 

In response to these events, Chief Judge Jay W. Ukena has issued the following statement. “The Nineteenth Judicial Circuit is appreciative of the service performed by the citizens of Lake County and is committed to protecting their civic right to serve as a juror. The Circuit is issuing a press advisory regarding this matter to all our local justice and media partners today to warn and protect the Citizens of Lake County." 
HB 138, sponsored by Rep. Jesiel and approved by both houses of the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor on Friday, will close loopholes in existing law, especially with relations to the Illinois General Assembly, on issues of sexual harassment. The bill makes the office of Legislative Inspector General a full-time position, lengthens the window of time within which a survivor of sexual harassment may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, toughen harassment training for Illinois state legislators and their staff, requires annual reporting of sexual harassment reports, and makes other changes.
One of the largest long-term challenges facing the State is the presence of unfunded pension liabilities in State-managed pension funds. The size of these liabilities, which cover pension payments promised to teachers and other public-sector professional workers, cannot be precisely determined at this time because it is based on future interest rates and prudent anticipated future rates of return on the funds already invested. Based on current estimates of future rates of return, the unfunded pension liabilities of the State and its taxpayers are in excess of $130 billion. $71 billion of this underfunding reflects commitments made by the Teachers’ Retirement System of Illinois.

In the spring 2018 session, the State took significant actions to delineate and reduce the unfunded liabilities on the books of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) and State Universities Retirement System (SURS). Legislation passed on a bipartisan basis by both houses will reduce these liabilities in two ways. Firstly, school districts will no longer be able to pass on to the State the cost of “spiking” end-of-career educator salary hikes, which are the salary levels on which pension payments are based, at a rate that is higher than the current rate of inflation. Under the 2018 pension reform plan, the State-pension-liable portions of the salaries paid to educators by school districts cannot increase at a rate faster than 3%. Pension costs generated from salary increases greater than 3% must be borne by the school or university that granted the salary hike.
Following the General Assembly’s passage of the first balanced budget in a decade, State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) had this to say:

“When I first entered the House in 2014, Illinois had not had a balanced budget in years,” said Jesiel. “I’m glad that is finally going to change. This FY19 Budget is far from perfect, but the common-sense fact that expenditures cannot exceed revenues has finally been recognized.

“This budget agreement demonstrates that we can actually negotiate in good faith without increasing taxes, which is part of the reason I voted for it. I am glad we are providing some stability through increased K-12 and higher education funding, which includes a merit-based scholarship to stop the brain-drain to other states. To help high-tax, low-wealth school districts, this package includes a tax-swap grant to provide property tax relief, something I pushed for in the education funding reform process. This budget also addresses pension spiking and creates a buyout option to reduce our pension liability. In addition, the package addresses unpaid bills from FY17 and FY18, as well as funding for critically needed infrastructure projects.

“However, passing this balanced budget is one small step. The state still needs to get serious about policy reform – we need to shift the local funding burden to reduce the excessive property tax burden on residents and lower the overall tax burden that is driving people out of Illinois. This means we will need to reduce spending next year, and the year after that, and get serious about workers’ compensation reform to make Illinois more desirable to job creators so we can actually grow. This also means taking the pension reform in this package beyond minor adjustments and producing long-term changes to make the system solvent, and pay down all our long-term obligations, not just those from the past couple years. Doing all of this won’t be easy, but finally passing a balanced budget for the first time in a decade is a good place to start,” Jesiel concluded.
This week, the Illinois House overwhelmingly passed legislation sponsored by State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) to curtail excessively large severance packages in public employment contracts. Having now passed both Houses of the General Assembly, Senate Bill 3604 will soon be sent to the Governor for his signature.

“This legislation is an overdue win for taxpayers,” said Jesiel. “If a public servant, particularly in an administrative or leadership role, engages in misconduct and loses their job, taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unmerited pay as a result.”