This week was a busy one in Springfield! As we get closer to the end of this legislative session, things are rapidly picking up. I feel optimistic about what we’re going to be able to accomplish these last couple weeks. I am going to give it my all to support the bills that bring the best and most positive change to our community.
Today I write to you with news from the 115th District and from Springfield. I hope this knowledge helps you to better understand what’s going on in our state. Thank you for making our communities what they are.
Rep. David Friess
Violette Nast Receives the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award
I was on hand to congratulate Violette Nast for winning the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award in their senior category (55+). Even though she is confined to a wheelchair, she doesn’t let that stop her from serving others. She has centered her life on giving in any way she can. Her selfless devotion has earned her this award.
The Governor’s Volunteer Service Award is awarded by the Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service alongside the Governor’s Office. Violette Nast was chosen from over 60 other nominees this year based on her work in Monroe County with Hospice, Monroe-Randolph County Transit, and St. Paul United Church of Christ in Columbia.
It is with great pleasure that we congratulate Violette Nast on her exceptional accomplishment. We are grateful for her continued work in our community. Volunteers like her make a bigger impact than any of us realize, so I’m honored for the opportunity to recognize her today. In retirement, her effort to continue to serve is obvious in everything she does. I have never seen her turn down someone in need of a helping hand. Violette Nast is a true inspiration, and we congratulate her on this well-deserved award.
Violette has spent her life in service. It has been her goal in life to make sure no one feels alone when faced with a challenge. She has never let her disability stand in the way of helping others. Giving remains to be her purpose in life! She stands as an inspiration for us all on how we can better serve others and our community.
Statement Regarding the Verdict of the ‘ComEd Four” Trial
I released the following statement following the verdict of the ‘ComEd Four’ trial:
“The man who used to lead the House of Representatives, Mike Madigan, as well as those in his inner circle, were charged with crimes usually reserved for mob bosses and gangsters. Despite this, Democrats have shown no willingness to tackle ethics reform in a meaningful way. For the future health and prosperity of Illinois, this cannot be allowed to continue. To stop corruption in Illinois, we need to pass strong ethics reform. Without immediate action by the General Assembly, corruption will continue to thrive in state government.”
VIDEO: Rep. Friess Discusses the Cost of Doing Business in Illinois
At a press conference last week in Springfield, I discussed the cost of doing business in Illinois. My full comments are below.
Rep. Friess Discusses the Economy, Public Safety, and more in NewsRadio WJPF Interview
I appeared on WJPF Newsradio where I discussed the firearms ban lawsuit, public safety in Illinois, the economy, and more. You can hear the full interview below.
Illinois Shows a Startling Loss of People and Wealth According to New IRS Data
Newly released IRS data shows that Illinois had a net loss of 105,000 residents in 2020. 271,000 people moved out of Illinois, with only 166,000 moving in. These numbers put Illinois as the nation’s 3rd biggest loser of people to other states.
This decline in population has led to a loss of wealth for Illinois. In 2020, Illinois lost $10.9 billion in taxable income to other states. Early data shows that those same kind of numbers are continuing, or even rising, in subsequent years.
We can get Illinois on a path toward growth by reducing burdens on residents and job creators alike. Let’s work together to offer lasting tax relief to Illinois families and implement the pro-business policies needed to drive innovation and investment in our state. Illinois businesses cannot compete with our immediate neighbors due to the exorbitantly high unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. The cost of higher taxes and higher insurance are passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to compete.
Rep. Friess and Fellow Republican Lawmakers Unveil Public Safety Working Group Progress
I joined Assistant Minority Leaders Patrick Windhorst and John Cabello, State Representatives Dan Ugaste and Dennis Tipsword, and other members of the HGOP Public Safety Working Group last week as part of a press conference addressing public safety in Illinois.
Together, we discussed legislation filed as a result of their Public Safety Working Group, including a number of bills that will address the rise in crime and ongoing uncertainty in current state law. The HGOP Public Safety Working Group, which started meeting in January, has put together a package of 20 bills to further strengthen public safety in Illinois.
These laws focus on three critical areas:
-Protecting Victims of Crime
-The Real Pre-Trail Fairness Act
-The Recruitment and Retention of Law Enforcement Officers
I stand with my fellow legislators in the HGOP Public Safety Working Group in our efforts to ensure the continued and strengthened safety of the citizens of Illinois. It’s crucial that we support our first responders and police officers so that they can serve the community to the best of their abilities. We must protect public safety in Illinois at all costs. I believe the package of 20 bills we have put together as a group will make great strides toward that need.
‘ComEd Four’ found guilty on all counts in bribery trial tied to ex-Speaker Madigan. A federal jury on Tuesday convicted three ex-lobbyists and the former CEO of electric utility Commonwealth Edison for their involvement in an alleged bribery scheme aimed at longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore and Mike McClain – the utility’s longtime contract lobbyist and close confidant of Madigan – were each found guilty of nine counts of conspiracy bribery and falsifying records. Former City Club of Chicago President Jay Doherty, who also served for decades as an external lobbyist for the utility, and John Hooker, a former ComEd executive turned contract lobbyist for the company, were each found guilty of six counts.
Prosecutors alleged the foursome gave Madigan allies jobs and contracts at the utility in exchange for an easier path for ComEd-supported legislation in Springfield.
The six-week trial was borne of a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that has rocked Illinois politics and ultimately unseated Madigan, who had been the longest-serving legislative leader in the nation. The former speaker faces related criminal racketeering charges in his own trial, set for next April.
Tuesday’s verdict could bolster prosecutors’ case against Madigan, who, in the course of the trial, was revealed as the initial target of the feds’ investigation which opened in late 2014.
Since then, the probe has grown to encompass more than a dozen high-profile players in the state’s political ecosystem.
The jury deliberated for approximately 27 hours since getting the case last Tuesday afternoon. A sentencing date was not set before court adjourned.
Speaking to reporters after the verdict, jury member Amanda Schnitker Sayers said the jury grew to like the defendants over the course of the trial.
“All in all, they’re good people that made bad decisions,” she said.
Schnitker Sayers said the jury stayed away from discussing Madigan outside of his role in the case at hand, but said they came to believe the speaker’s involvement with ComEd “was key.”
“He really did cause this all to happen,” she said. “If it wouldn’t have been for him, these people would not have been in the position that they would need to commit crimes in the first place.”
Illinois House Republicans demand ethics reform following ComEd Four guilty verdict. Illinois House Republicans renewed calls for ethics reform less than an hour after four of former House Speaker Mike Madigan’s closest allies with ties to Commonwealth Edison were found guilty of corruption.
The House GOP caucus leaders told reporters Tuesday night that the Springfield system has allowed bad actors and political insiders to succeed at the expense of honest hardworking Illinoisans.
House Republican Leader Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) stressed that every state lawmaker should be compelled to work with her caucus to pass accountability measures.
The GOP members said ethics reform should be the General Assembly’s top priority.
“How many indictments is too many? How many more court rulings do we need to make unethical behavior stop,” McCombie asked. “We will always be ready to work, put ideas forward, and fight for what’s right.”
The Republican leadership team said lawmakers should pass bills to halt the revolving door for legislators becoming lobbyists and end “pay to play politics.”
Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) said the Legislative Inspector General should also be given subpoena powers to help the office perform thorough investigations and root out bad behavior.
“Illinois’ reputation for public corruption is sadly well-earned,” Windhorst said. “But our state’s reputation is not beyond saving. It can be rebuilt. Let us delay no longer.”
Windhorst and Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) serve on the House Ethics & Ethics Committee. However, both men noted that the group has not taken a single vote or held subject matter hearings about ethics reform.
“Today should be a wake up call,” Windhorst said. “It should start immediately.”
The House Ethics & Elections Committee is not scheduled to meet this week.
“This is embarrassing. For too long, we have allowed the poor ethical behavior of people like Mike Madigan, his associates, and others to become the way we do business in the state of Illinois,” Spain said. “Unfortunately, the Madigan way is still the way in which our government works here in Springfield. It has to stop now.”
Eliminating the culture of corruption in Illinois. Illinois House Republicans are calling on the Democratic supermajority to join our efforts in eliminating the culture of corruption plaguing the state of Illinois. And to make ethics reform a priority as we head into the final weeks of session.
The legislature needs to take bold steps to weed out the underlying causes of corruption in state government by:
Allowing for greater transparency in the budget-making and lawmaking processes.
Changing the “Rules” set up by Mike Madigan (and that are still used today) that gives a handful of lawmakers the power to decide which bills get a hearing, including ethics bills.
Enacting stronger laws that prohibit lawmakers from serving as lobbyists, grant greater authority to the Legislative Inspector General, and enact Fair Maps to let voters select their elected officials.
We’d like to hear from you. Should ethics reform be a priority? How can we restore your confidence in state government? Please take our survey to let us know what you think about the need for ethics reform in Illinois.
Revenue numbers for April show sharp decline in State revenues. Tax receipts for the month, which saw the final submission of many 2022 income tax returns, dropped $1.84 billion below year-earlier numbers. While a decline had been projected, this shortfall was dramatically higher than the projections. Personal Income Taxes paid to the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR), which includes income tax payments from individuals, trusts, estates, and pass-through entities, fell $1.76 billion below the receipts paid to IDOR in April 2022.
The sharp decline in April 2023 revenue will have a chilling effect on overall revenue numbers during the remainder of FY23 and into FY24. The trends in Illinois economic activity that led to this payment gap cannot be expected to go away. Based on these April numbers, the nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) has reduced its projection of the State’s FY23 tax-fueled general funds cash flows by $728 million.
CGFA has also been compelled to adjust its numbers for FY24. After reallocations of certain categories of cash flows, the FY24 numbers – like the FY23 numbers – are now in precarious balance. The State expects to bring in barely enough money to meet its existing spending commitments for FY24, the fiscal year that will start on July 1, 2023. Unfortunately, many spending items within the State’s budget are rising fast. New issues are demanding attention. CGFA’s numbers and revenue projections mean that there is now no new net State money to meet these demands for additional State spending. House Republicans will redouble their efforts to help the State get control over its massive, momentum-driven need to continually spend money the State does not have.
Expected cost for Illinois’ noncitizen health care program grows to $1.1 billion. New estimate represents 400% increase from Pritzker’s February budget estimate. The estimated cost for Illinois to continue providing health care coverage to noncitizens who are otherwise ineligible for Medicaid benefits has been revised upward to $1.1 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.
As of the end of March, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services estimated it would cost $990 million to fund the program that provides state-funded health care to individuals age 42 and older who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid if not for their citizenship status.
The new estimate, shared by IDHFS Director Theresa Eagleson in testimony to a Senate appropriations committee Wednesday night, is now $880 million beyond the $220 million estimate included in Gov. JB Pritzker’s February budget proposal.
The administration also estimated the current-year expenditures for the program at $220 million, but it has cost over $400 million thus far with two months to go in the fiscal year.
IDHFS chief of staff Ben Winick told the committee that the original estimate relied on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data to estimate the eligible population, then assumed a certain percentage would enroll.
But both the cost of providing care and the number of enrollees have far outpaced estimates.
The projections are now based on the program’s current month-over-month growth rate of roughly 10 percent. The number of enrollees is expected to grow to over 120,000 in Fiscal Year 2024. The previous estimate was 98,500 enrollees.
The same Senate committee heard a proposal from Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, that would further expand Medicaid coverage to noncitizens age 19 and older. That would cost another $380 million, per IDHFS estimates.
Two weeks ago, Illinois House Republican leaders called for a moratorium on expansion and a State audit of Illinois’ billion-dollar health benefits program for undocumented immigrants.
Sustaining & Protecting At-Risk Kids working group presents proposals to fix DCFS. At the beginning of the 103rd General Assembly, House Republican Leader Tony McCombie established several working groups within the House Republican Caucus to develop legislation for the priorities of the caucus and the people of Illinois. On Thursday, State Representative Tom Weber and his colleagues provided an update on the progress of the Sustaining & Protecting At-Risk Kids working group, which Weber leads.
“Protecting vulnerable children is not, and should not, be a partisan issue,” said Weber. “Protecting them is our most basic responsibility as a state, and I’ve spoken with many legislators on both sides of the aisle who agree. That’s why we are proposing House Bill 3471, the AJ Freund Act, to allow local law enforcement to conduct their own abuse or neglect investigations and require DCFS to share their investigation reports with local County State’s Attorneys to play a more active role in prosecuting abusers. We are also proposing House Bill 3002 to create an independent Ombudsperson to investigate complaints against DCFS, provide recommendations for policy changes and report to law enforcement when necessary.
“We believe these proposals, and others can have a real impact on fixing DCFS and I hope they will be considered for a vote before the spring session ends.”
Also at the press conference was State Rep. Steve Reick, who discussed additional proposals:
HB 2935 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to establish and operate a caseload tracking system which shall be designed to monitor and evaluate the interrelationship between client case plans, the Department’s case tracking system, and the work responsibilities of the Department.
HB 2937 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to submit to the General Assembly no later than March 1 of each year a report in relation to the ongoing case files of the Department, the caseload tracking system or systems operated by the Department, the ratio of active case files to active Department personnel, and how appropriations to the Department can be structured to incentivize the Department to manage its caseload and to reduce the burden of individual case responsibilities upon individual Department personnel.
HB 3614 – In a provision concerning foster placements, provides that prior to final approval for placement of a child, the Department of Children and Family Services shall request that the Illinois State Police conduct a criminal records background check of the prospective foster or adoptive parent, including fingerprint-based checks of national crime information databases.
HB 3615 – Provides that the Department of Children and Family Services shall initialize, but not complete, the move of Family First functions, carried under the Act and the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (Title IV-E of the federal Social Security Act) from the Department of Children and Family Services to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
HB 3618 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to develop a plan to phase in mandatory intact family services for at-risk families who are in need of continuing assistance and monitoring following a child abuse or neglect investigation.
Federal courts take action on controversial Illinois gun ban law. The new law, passed during the January lame-duck session, bars significant categories of firearms, firearm attachments, and magazines. The new Illinois statute was immediately challenged in State and in federal court. Now, a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the law until the case is fully litigated. In order to grant the preliminary injunction, the Court determined that the plaintiffs, who are Illinois gun owners and Illinois federal firearm licensees have shown that the enforcement of the statute will create irreparable harm with no adequate remedy at law. In addition, the plaintiffs had to demonstrate: (i) a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, (ii) that the public interest is in favor of the relief, and (iii) that the balance of harm weighs in their favor. The Court determined that the Plaintiffs had met that burden, and issued the preliminary injunction on Friday, April 28.
The preliminary injunction stopped the enforcement of the law while the case continues to be fully litigated. During his analysis for the preliminary injunction, federal judge Stephen P. McGlynn cited the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, current case law that changed the analysis of Second Amendment cases. Judge McGlynn is a federal judge in the Southern District of Illinois. Bruen held that the Second Amendment protects the possession and use of weapons in common use. The preliminary injunction is not a verdict after a full-fledged legal proceeding to examine the constitutionality of the law. In a ruling issued on Thursday, May 4, the preliminary injunction has been stayed by a federal appellate court.