I hope this update finds you and your family well. If you are like me, you are anticipating the celebration of Thanksgiving and reflecting back on the blessings we have in life. There isn’t a single day where I don’t think on the distinct honor I have to represent you in Springfield. It isn’t always easy; headlines aren’t always what they seem and we may indeed differ on issues I’m called to vote upon. But as always, I believe in sharing the details that impact the decisions with you so you can have a more rounded perspective.
I would like to take a moment in this newsletter to give you a brief update about legislative news from the recently concluded Fall Veto Session in Springfield. Please scroll below for more, and feel welcome to contact my district office in Sycamore if I or a member of our staff may be of assistance to you. You can reach us by phone at (815) 748-3494 or via e-mail at Keicher@ilhousegop.org.
State Rep. Jeff Keicher
House of Representatives to reconvene in January
The Illinois House of Representatives is scheduled to return to Springfield on January 28, 2020 for the start of next year’s session. The Governor will give his annual “State of the State” address on January 29. I will keep you updated on what new bills I intend to file and what my legislative priorities are for the new year.
Police and Fire Pension Consolidation bill approved by General Assembly
On November 13, the Illinois House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1300, legislation to consolidate the 649 existing local police and fire pension funds outside of Chicago into one for police and one for fire. This bill had A LOT of misunderstandings that were spread by many different entities. It also had multiple negotiated alterations in the final days in order to bring everyone to the table.
I voted in favor of consolidation for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, I believe it is the most responsible step we can take to protect the hard-earned retirement security of our dedicated police and fire personnel. This IS NOT a “take over” by the “State”. This is an establishment of an investment management system for police and fire that is like the IMRF (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund), the most well-funded and efficient pension system in Illinois that also returns the highest average annual returns. It is hoped this improved performance and lower fees will lead to less pressure on real estate taxes. I also believe that consolidation will reduce investment costs and increase returns, both for current police and fire retirees and those still working. I cannot emphasize enough that their pension funds are protected and cannot be swept by the State for any purpose. It should also be reassuring to police and firefighters who may have been skeptical that their statewide organizations, the Illinois Firefighters Association and the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police are in support of this plan.
The Illinois Municipal League also supports the pension consolidation plan contained in Senate Bill 1300. The legislation was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 96-14-3. This is also a reflection of the multiple years this plan was discussed and vetted. Both parties saw the overwhelming benefits to the taxpayer and our first responders.
According to most recently available estimates, Illinois’ 649 downstate and suburban police and fire pension funds are underfunded by a whopping $11 billion. This is NOT well-funded funds paying for poor-funded plans. This is an aggregation of the dollars for investment purposes while the funding obligations remain local, as it is today.
The idea for consolidation came from the Governor’s bipartisan Pension Consolidation Feasibility Task Force that met eight times throughout the last year and issued a report in October recommending that downstate police and fire pension system assets be consolidated to achieve higher investment returns and lower the cost of managing the funds.
House of Representatives approves legislation to cap some insulin copays
Many Illinois residents have diabetes. Many diabetics must take insulin to survive. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are influenced by a wide variety of variables when they set prices for medicines, with one of these factors being the fact that a medication is necessary for a person with a chronic illness to live a healthy life. Some people with diabetes are reporting that they must pay high prices, and must make high co-payments, for essential insulin supplies.
House legislation, enacted as House Amendment #1 to SB 667, deals with prescription insulin drugs that are covered by insurance programs regulated by the State of Illinois. The legislation imposes a co-pay cap of $100 per month on this insulin. Some health programs are covered by federal law, and are not regulated by the State and are not affected by this new law. SB 667, as amended, was approved in the House on Wednesday, November 13 by a vote of 100-13-1. A Senate concurrence vote of 43-1-0 sent this measure to the Governor to be signed into law.
My long-term concern with this bill is that it does NOTHING to address the underlying issues in increasing prescription drug costs. It only addresses the “at the counter” cost for about 20% of our population. It also starts a precedence of “one off” solutions to pricing on medications by legislation. While this helps some of our most dependent citizens, the problem is more complicated and deserves more honest and diligent attention. As a member of the House Human Services Committee, we have pushed for additional solutions through a working group, task force or other ideas to solve these in a more holistic manner.
Vaping Moved to Back Burner
Although a topic of much discussion before
and during veto session, bills aimed at curbing electronic smoking devices and
their flavors did not advance past both the Senate or the House and are dead
until the spring session. The issue primarily came down to exactly what kind of
a ban Illinois should implement; the flavorings, THC cartridges, or
e-cigarettes all together? Only one bill got to the point where it actually
came for a vote. SB
1864 passed the Senate but ran out of time to be
considered in the House. The bill would outlaw flavored vaping products and ban
electronic cigarette use in indoor public spaces.
There have been 42 vaping related deaths nationwide (4 in IL) and many more hospitalizations. The latest breakthrough from the CDC says that the lungs of 29 patients across 10 states contained Vitamin E acetate. While Vitamin E is the first potential culprit, other chemicals have not necessarily been ruled out as the cause. THC is present in most of the samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration to date, and most patients report a history of using THC-containing products.
I have sat on many of the committee hearings on this topic as it has appeared before the Mental Health Committee. In most all reported cases of illness or death, 75-80% according to Illinois Attorney General Raoul & Dr. Ngozi Ezike in testimony, are related to aftermarket THC laced vaping cartridges. Additionally, the addictive nicotine levels are set in high concentrations in SOME market products such as Juul, thus causing youth (and others) addiction to the products via high nicotine. The bills presented did NOTHING to address vitamin E acetate NOR did they address nicotine level per dosage. I’d suggest that starting with the problem of addiction and the chemical causing illness and death MAY be a better first IMMEDIATE step for us to consider.
Your feedback is important to me as we move forward. Please feel welcome to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my district office at (815) 748-3494 to let me know what your views are on the issue of vaping.
Property Tax Relief Task Force Continues to Meet: Your Feedback Still Welcome
I am a member of the Property Tax Relief Task Force, which has subcommittees that continue to meet regularly this fall. We are required to submit a final report by December 31, 2019 with recommendations for both short and long-term solutions that can take an administrative, electoral or legislative approach. Contrary to press there was an interim report issued via public presentation October 28.
I and many of my peers have been endlessly frustrated by the lack of input that’s being allowed as the task force proceeds. We’ve attempted multiple times to include topics such as conflict of interest, bonding reform and property tax assessment reform. While I hold optimism for immediate improvement, this seems to be turning into a directionless series of one-sided narratives.
You can still provide your feedback by taking my quick, five-question property tax survey online by clicking HERE. If you prefer that a paper copy of the survey be sent to you in the mail, please call my district office at (815) 748-3494 and we will get one out to you. I plan to use your feedback to help shape the task force’s recommendations.
Rep. Keicher pays tribute to DeKalb Fire Department on 150th anniversary
Last week I pleased to offer House Resolution 599 honoring the DeKalb Fire Department on their 150th anniversary. The DeKalb Fire Department began as a volunteer-only department back in 1869. Today the Fire Department consists of 3 fire stations with 52 sworn and 1 civilian employee.
The department’s service area covers approximately 55 square miles and includes the City of DeKalb, Northern Illinois University, and the DeKalb Fire Protection District. I have toured their facility, had the privilege of going on a call, and celebrated with them last month at the local firefighters ball.
Our fire department is being called on more frequently with increasing calls to do more than put out fires. The fire department provides emergency medical services, fire prevention, hazardous materials response, public education, and technical rescue services to the approximately 50,000 people in their service area.
I was able to recognize the local firefighters who traveled to Springfield to be present for the adoption of the resolution; Deputy Chief Bart Gilmore, Captain Todd Stoffa, Lieutenant/Paramedic Jason Pavlak, and Firefighter/Paramedic Patrick Eriksen. I thank them for their dedication to the community.
Please click HERE to watch the video clip of my remarks honoring the DeKalb Fire Department.
Health Insurance & Wellness Fair held in DeKalb on November 2 a success
On Saturday, November 2 I sponsored a free Health Insurance & Wellness Fair with Representative Tom Demmer in partnership with the DeKalb Public Library for local residents interested in learning about their options to purchase a health care plan on the Get Covered Illinois marketplace and/or finding out whether they are eligible for Medicaid. Thank you to all who attended!
Representatives from Get Covered Illinois and other agencies were on-hand to inform guests of their health insurance options, including Medicaid and private plans. Area hospitals and other local healthcare organizations offered helpful guides, free brochures and consultation on the medical services they offer.
We are committed to making sure that local families are aware of all the options available to them when it comes to health insurance coverage. The open enrollment period for individuals wanting to purchase health insurance through HealthCare.gov runs from November 1st through December 15th. For more information, please visit the Get Covered Illinois website.
General Assembly falls short on ethics reform
In the wake of even more federal corruption investigations entangling multiple layers of Illinois government, House Republicans continued to press the case for comprehensive ethics reform. Members of my caucus held a Capitol press conference to call on the General Assembly to take up a sweeping package of legislation to tackle the long overdue problem. This was the third such press conference to call for ethics reform in as many weeks.
In response to the federal corruption probe that has widened further in the past two weeks, House Republicans upped the ante with a new package of legislation introduced before the final week of veto session. Our ethics reform bills are common sense, and a direct response to the wrongdoings we have learned from the current federal investigations. I am a co-sponsor of each of these bills:
- House Bill 3954 that will revise statements of economic interests to include more details similar to the information required for judicial statements of economic interest. This forces full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and provides greater transparency for members of the General Assembly;
- HJRCA 36 will require a special election to fill General Assembly vacancies through the same laws governing party primaries. This will prevent political powerbrokers from picking their preferred candidates for vacancies;
- House Resolution 588 will allow a Chief Co-Sponsor of any bill with five co-sponsors from each party to call it or an up or down vote in a substantive committee;
- House Bill 3947 would ban members of the General Assembly, their spouses, and immediate live-in family members from performing paid lobbying work with local government units. Currently, members of the Illinois General Assembly – state representatives and state senators – are prohibited from lobbying the State of Illinois, but are not prohibited from lobbying local government units, such as a counties or municipalities;
- House Bill 3955 will create mandatory and publicly available documentation of General Assembly communications with any state agency regarding contracts.
Ignoring Republican reform requests, Democrats passed watered-down ethics legislation. On the final day of the fall Veto Session, the Illinois General Assembly passed several ethics reform measures that do not fully address concerns over recent federal indictments and ongoing political corruption in Illinois.
The Democrat majority filed legislation in the middle of the night in a last-minute attempt to provide cover for their members. While refusing to take any votes on a true ethics reform package that actually addresses the issues revealed isn’t a long term solution, there was little interest in moving forward. The legislation passed Thursday should only be considered a small first step on the path to ending political corruption in our state. While most House Republicans reluctantly supported these watered-down bills, much more work needs to be done to end the culture of corruption.
House Joint Resolution 93 creates the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform to review Illinois’ ethics laws and lobbyist registration requirements. The Democrats’ resolution postpones the final report of the Commission until March 31, 2020, after the Primary Election.
Senate Bill 1639 requires lobbyists to disclose if they are elected officials, if they lobby a local government that requires registration, and requires the disclosure of who a sub-registrant lobbyist is hired to help lobby. Nothing in SB 1639 bans legislators from being paid to lobby local governments.
As House Democrats moved to adjourn the fall Veto Session, House Republicans demanded a roll call vote on the adjournment motion, voting against leaving town until our work on ethics reform is completed. We were voted down. House Republicans called on Speaker Madigan to bring the House back into special session to fully debate and vote on our ethics reform package, which contains much stronger reforms to curtail political corruption in Illinois. After recent revelations of federal investigations and indictments against current and recently resigned legislators, we must do more to restore the public’s trust in our government.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update. Please do not hesitate to contact my district office if I or a member of our staff may be of assistance to you. You can reach us by phone at (815) 748-3494 or via e-mail at Keicher@ilhousegop.org.